City match finishes in black, say organisers
It was a win-win result in the Xtep Cup invitational match at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday as Birmingham City defeated a Hong Kong League XI 3-2.
While the English Premier League side, owned by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung Ka-sing, registered a hard-earned victory in the first match of their pre-season Asia Tour, the crowd of 13,000 also brought an income of HK$1.4 million to the Hong Kong Football Association, said organisers of the event. An additional HK$1.25 million was donated by Birmingham City to the HKFA.
'We would like to thank Birmingham City for their generous support,' said HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak. 'We only had to provide board and accommodation during their stay in Hong Kong as not only did they decline to charge an appearance fee but they also made such a generous donation.'
Overall, the HKFA is expected to make a profit of more than HK$1.5 million.
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was happy with the win, especially as his side were one goal down at half-time.
Scott Dann opened the scoring for the visitors with a header in the 21st minute, but his effort was cancelled out four minutes later by Citizen striker Sandro, who pounced on a poor clearance by Sebastian Larsson inside the box and drilled home to level the score. The home side went ahead in stoppage time at the end of the first half when Tai Po forward Christian Annan punished the visitors for standing off him by placing his shot in the bottom right corner, beyond goalkeeper ben Foster who was making his debut for the Blues after joining from Manchester United.
Birmingham made seven changes in the second half, and gradually took control of the match. Craig Gardner, a second-half substitute, beat the Hong Kong goalkeeper with a header before Garry O'Connor sealed victory with one minute left.
'It was a tougher match than we had expected,' said McLeish. 'It was the first game of our tour and we were a little bit rusty. The Hong Kong selection were sharper in the first half and we were no way near our needed level of fitness.
'I know what pre-season matches are like as I have been involved in them for 20 years as a manager and many years as a player. If I had to choose a pre-season game, I would have not picked this game. German and Dutch teams opt to play seventh or 12th division amateur sides so that they can score 20 goals in their first game. We have done it the hard way.'
Hong Kong coach Tsang Wai-chung was impressed by his side, especially youngsters Chak Ting-fung (21) and Pak Wing-chak (20). 'Despite their age, they did a good job against an EPL side and that should boost their chances of representing Hong Kong in the forthcoming Asian Games and the 2012 Olympic Games qualifiers,' he said.