Valley light up sevens with dazzling displays
Happy Valley were the unlikely heroes on the first day of play at the HKFC Philips Lighting International Sevens at Sports Road yesterday.
For Valley, who are attempting to salvage a bitterly disappointing season, the annual sevens showpiece represents one last shot at a consolation piece of silverware. And they couldn't have made a bigger impact as they booked their quarter-final berth in the main cup competition, joining some of the big guns of Europe.
Nobody would have guessed that Valley, especially with just one foreign player in their ranks, would survive the first day of play. Not only did the local club impress with their superb play, but they won new fans with their attacking brand of football.
'We're trying to get something out of the season after suffering the disappointment of two cup final losses [League Cup and FA Cup against Kitchee and South China],' said Happy Valley manager Michael Sek Kam-wah. 'We're delighted to have reached the quarter-finals, but there's still a lot of work to do and we have to stay focused.'
Happy Valley began their campaign with a shock 1-0 victory over Scottish giants Celtic and they proved their earlier win was no fluke when they held South African outfit, Kaizer Chiefs - last year's cup semi-finalists - to an exciting goalless draw.
And the former league champions completed their round-robin matches with one of the most impressive displays of the day, thrashing the Hong Kong Football Club Chairman's Select 6-0, with in-form striker Lee Sze-ming scoring a hat-trick. Sham Kwok-keung and his brother, Sham Kwok-fai, both got on the scoresheet, while Brazilian midfielder Monteire Vandre Sagrilo was also on target in the rout.
It was a dream start for Happy Valley, who were without several expatriate players, including striker Gerard Ambassa Guy, who is struggling with a thigh injury, and Fabio Alcantara, who received five stitches to the head during a reserve match against Rangers on Thursday.
Meanwhile, defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds also booked their quarter-final berth, finishing ahead of Arsenal, local club South China and the Yau Yee League Select in Group A.
Also through to the quarter-finals were PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, and the Central Coast Mariners from Australia.
Meanwhile, the Philips All Stars and arch-rivals Lorenz All Stars moved closer to a final showdown in the veterans' tournament after booking their place in the quarter-finals.