Shaheen storm back into title hunt
'We are back,' were the first words from triumphant captain Farouq Saeed after Shaheen defeated Hong Kong Football Club 3-1 in the South China Premier League yesterday.
The victory was sweet revenge for the first-round loss at the hands of Football Club. And any thoughts that Shaheen were a spent force this season were quickly dispelled yesterday as they hammered in three field goals from Asghar Ali, Nawab Din and Ishtiaq Khan to storm back into title contention.
'The league is wide open. When we lost our first two games this season to Pakistan Association and Football Club, everyone thought that Shaheen were not a force anymore. But we are back,' said an ecstatic Saeed.
With recent results going in their favour, Shaheen are now in with a great chance of retaining their league title after being totally out of the picture having dropped to fifth place.
Asghar Ali set the ball rolling when he scored one of his trademark goals. Receiving a long pass, Ali turned smoothly to outpace the defence, took on the last defender and silkily beat him with a subtle dummy before flicking the ball past Club goalkeeper Martin Wong to open the scoring.
Scoring first seemed to settle Shaheen, who were a far different side to that which lost in their first outing to Football club. The return of a number of faces, among them Alfonso Cordeiro, Asif Ali and Mohammed Swalikh - although the latter ended the match with a red card - made a huge change to the team.
Shaheen lost Asghar Ali early in the ninth minute of the second half when he was hit a searing blow on the knee. His departure was a huge blow as Shaheen had lost their main attacking weapon, but Football Club failed to take advantage of that and a horrible defensive blunder gifted Shaheen a second goal scored by Nawab Din.
With a 2-0 cushion, Shaheen dropped into defensive mode and made it hard for Club to score. It was not made any easier for the hosts thanks to some poor finishing. And when Ishtiaq Khan dribbled around three defenders to score Shaheen's third goal, it was all over. Patrick Fok got a late consolation goal for Club but it was a case of too little, too late.
'They had three shots and scored three goals and hats off to them. We need a bit of fine tweaking and we will be fine. There is still plenty of time to go in the league,' said Club's stand-in captain Billy Newsum.
However, there will be worries in the Club camp. After reaching the halfway mark of the season unbeaten - four wins and four draws - Club have lost their last two matches to SSSC and Shaheen.
'Our build-up is not a worry but we need to be more lethal in our finishing,' said Club player-coach Erik Bernsaco.
In the other big game yesterday, Pakistan Association thumped Valley 4-1 to press their claims for the title, while KCC drew 2-2 with SSSC.