Cup finalists refuse to be distracted by prospect of Liverpool

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am

For Happy Valley, it's a chance to finish the season on a high note. For South China, it's an opportunity to make a clean sweep of all three titles. But as the teams prepare for today's Lanwa International FA Cup final, there is much more at stake than Valley's quest to end a disappointing season with at least one title and the Caroliners' attempt to ice a cake layered with the Coolpoint Ventilation First Division and the Senior Shield.

The winners will play in the Barclays Asia Trophy against Liverpool and either Fulham or Portsmouth in a two-day tournament in July. In addition, they will claim a bonus prize of HK$500,000, courtesy of the English Premier League, more than triple the entire purse of the FA Cup tournament.

But even with so much on the line, the coaches refuse to look ahead.

'No talk of the Liverpool match,' South China coach Casemiro Mior said. 'We don't think about it. Maybe the fans or some people think, but we're just concentrating on Happy Valley. It's the most important thing for me and the players.'

Happy Valley coach Lo Kai-wah echoed that sentiment. 'At this moment, it's one game,' Lo said. 'It's the only thing. After Saturday, we can think about whatever's next.'

The Caroliners enjoyed a heated 4-2 win over Kitchee in last Sunday's semi-final. South China needed two goals in extra time from substitute Cheng Sui-wai, though Kitchee played most of the match short-handed.

With 13 yellow cards and two reds brandished by the referee, Mior is taking no chances.

'We have to prepare for everything,' Mior said after his team practised penalties. 'If we practise this, the players will know to concentrate. Nobody knows what will happen, but we hope we can win in 90 minutes.'

South China will be without Cristiano Pereira, who is suspended after his booking against Kitchee.

Happy Valley cruised into the final with a 4-0 victory over Rangers. Happy Valley have been helped by the HK$500,000 splurge on three Brazilians - Hamilton Junior, Marcos Antonio and Denisson De Souza - before the tournament.

It has been a surprise year for South China, who last season finished second last in the standings and had to be invited to stay in the top flight. In a reversal of sorts, Happy Valley, who were champions last year, have been mediocre this year.

'Happy Valley are going to come in strong, with new players, so we have to respect them,' Mior said. 'We're not afraid of them, but we have to respect them.'

Happy Valley forward Fabio Alcantara said: 'We have to be at our best to beat them because we know they put on good performances and they also have confidence.'

The match will be refereed by Mike Riley of the English Premier League.