High five heralds start of a new era
Hong Kong got off to a convincing start under new coach Ernie Merrick with a 5-1 victory over visitors Taiwan in an international friendly at Mong Kok Stadium last night.
Striker Chan Siu-ki fired home a hat-trick, including two goals in the opening five minutes, to set the stage for a memorable night for the 5,100 crowd.
Lee Hong-lim made it 3-0 before Kuo Yin-hung pulled one back for Taiwan in their first serious attempt before the half-time whistle.
Second-half substitute Chan Man-fai also got his name on the scoresheet.
Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said: 'The atmosphere was absolutely terrific with such a great support from the fans.
'This is a good start for the players, the sport and the new management under the government's Project Phoenix to revitalise the game. Taiwan are not a very strong team, but we look forward to improved performances by the team under the new coach so that we can challenge stronger nations of the region in the near future.'
A relieved Merrick gave his charges a thumbs up after his first match in charge, not just because of the score but also their performance. 'We played very well and the result was very important. But probably more important was the style of our performance,' said the former Melbourne Victory coach.
'Predominately we wanted to build up from the back through midfield with high-quality through passes to strikers, like the modern game rather than long balls to a target man. I tried to avoid that.
'It is very important the team presses the opposition from the beginning of the game and doesn't sit back and play a counter-attacking game.'
But the coach admitted there would be a lot more to do.
'We have only had five training sessions and one match so far,' he said. 'This is a step-by-step process but a good step forward, even though we cannot get carried away with this performance and have to build up ourselves so that we can become better and better.
'With regard to our preparation in future, we are looking for teams in this region who are above us in the Fifa rankings, and hopefully we will secure three or four matches before the end of the year.'
Vietnam and Thailand are two possible targets as Hong Kong attempt to improve their dismal world ranking of 163.
Hong Kong are planning to host the second round of the East Asian Championship in December which will also feature North Korea, Taiwan and a qualifier from the first stage.
Goalscorer Chan, who took full advantage of the opposition's shaky start, was pleased the team met most of the requirements set by the coach, but he acknowledged there was plenty of room for improvement.
'It is just the first match and we are adapting to his style,' said the South China forward.
'We had a strong midfield which created a lot of chances. Unlike before, we used a lot of high crosses from the wings. But I am also grateful to my teammates as they did a great job by handing me some easy chances to score.'
Taiwan coach Chen Kuei-jen said they knew this would be a learning exercise for them, but the two early goals cost them dearly.