Fiery welcome for Merrick

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am


Disgruntled fans smashed a dugout as 10-man South China twice came back from behind to force a 3-3 draw in a sensational BMA First Division clash at Mong Kok Stadium last night.

It was a dramatic introduction to Hong Kong soccer for new national team coach Ernie Merrick, who arrived from Australia yesterday.

Supporters - believed to be South China's - gathered behind Citizen's dugout and hammered it with their fists, taking out their frustrations with the result and the referee, who handed out two red and 10 yellow cards in front of a 2,300-strong crowd.

A fan was detained by police but later released as more than 50 supporters gathered at the stadium entrance for more than 30 minutes before leaving. No one was charged.

South China convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing said he would pay for the damage to the dugout.

Hong Kong Football Association deputy secretary Emily Lau Cheuk-chi said they would discuss with authorities whether additional security measures were required.

'The dugout is very near to the spectators' exit, which may cause problems if a lot of fans gather behind it,' Lau said. 'We have to review the situation with the stadium authorities, especially in view of the approach of the AFC Cup matches.'

The Caroliners, who needed three points to top the table, were a goal down after only three minutes when unmarked Paulo Carreiro headed in a corner. They suffered another blow in the 32nd minute when left-back Yeo Jeehoon, making his Hong Kong debut, was sent off for a second yellow card, and Yuto Nakamura made it 2-0 to Citizen at half-time.

Au Yeung Yiu-chung and Chan Siu-ki levelled after the break as the Caroliners threw caution to the wind, but they seemed set for defeat when Sham Kwok-keung's header made it 3-2 to Citizen with five minutes left - only for Festus Baise to level with a stoppage-time own goal. Sham was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession at the death.

Merrick, the former coach of A-League champions Melbourne Victory, starts his three-year contract on Monday. 'With the government and the [HKFA] board putting funds and resources into improving the quality of the team and the game here, I think the future is very exciting,' the Scot, 59, said at the airport yesterday. His first match is a friendly at home to Taiwan next month.

'There are some good youngsters and some good senior players, and the trick is to get the right balance. It will be an exciting opportunity to work with these players.'

South China went second after the fiery draw, on 17 points. Leaders TSW Pegasus (18) face third-place Sunray Cave Sun Hei today.