Fantastic Fan saves the day for SAR
'The Hong Kong goalkeeper played too well,' laments Uzbekistan coach
Goalkeeper Fan Chun-yip turned in a magnificent performance at the Hong Kong Stadium last night as the SAR team forced a 0-0 draw against Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup group F qualifying tournament.
The Happy Valley player prevented the home side from having a disastrous night, saving more than 15 shots from the opposition in front of a crowd of 7,600 to keep Hong Kong's slim chance alive of making it into next year's finals.
'The Hong Kong goalkeeper played too well and that's why we could not win the match,' said Uzbekistan coach Valery Nepomnyashchiy.
'We created a lot of chances throughout the match, but unfortunately luck was not on our side.'
The coach said the team sorely missed their two injured top goalscorers, Maksim Shatskikh of Dynamo Kiev and Anvarjon Soliev, who both scored against Hong Kong in their previous match.
Hong Kong coach Lai Sun-cheung said Fan had a wonderful game, however, he added the other players also made life difficulty for the visitors.
'The boys kept running for every ball throughout the match and I would say the team spirit also contributed a lot to the result,' he said. 'We defended well, kept the ball well, but just lacked a neat finish to kill off the opponents.
'The fans were also great as they kept shouting for us for the whole match. I am very pleased to see such a big crowd come to support the Hong Kong team and I hope they will turn out for the domestic league matches as well.'
Fan said he was more than happy with his own performance, but the most important point was that Hong Kong still had a chance in the group after the goalless draw.
'I had an excellent game, but I am also happy to see my teammates work hard for the match,' said Fan.
'The result is more important than my performance.'
The visitors, who squandered a two-goal lead at home against Hong Kong to draw 2-2, were eager to improve and they were dominating the match from the first minute. Despite making more than a dozen shots, they failed to beat Fan.
Leonid Koshelev's shot in the 43rd minute had already beaten Fan, but was denied by the goalpost, while in the second half, an unmarked Pavel Solomin only had the goalkeeper to beat, but his shot was blocked by Fan.
Midfielder Alexey Nikolaev was sent off in the 83rd minute after receiving his second yellow card, further weakening the visitors chances of winning.
The result gave both sides five points from four matches, but the former Soviet Union state are definitely holding the advantage with a far better goal difference after an equal head-to-head record.
Runaway group leaders Qatar should have no difficulty in reaching the finals, while Hong Kong face a tough battle ahead if they are to qualify for the finals to be held in four South East Asian countries next year.
The SAR team will have to travel to Qatar for their next group match, whereas Uzbekistan will travel to Bangladesh, the bottom team of the group. The final match will see Hong Kong play hosts to Bangladesh, while Uzbekistan play Qatar at home.
Singapore held China to a goalless draw in a group E match last night. The result of the match played at Singapore's National Stadium moved China to the top of group E.