Newcastle United showed exactly why they are the defending champions at the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens yesterday as they stormed into the Cup quarter-finals.
The Magpies won all three of their matches at Hong Kong Football Club, scoring nine goals without reply, to top group B. Striker Sammy Ameobi led the way with four goals.
Coach Willie Donachie said it was a good day's work by his players. "I'm delighted, they've shown great attitude," he said. "We've got some quite experienced players who have played in the league at different levels, either Premier League or on loan in the lower divisions, so you are never sure how they are going to react to a tournament like this, but their work rate has been excellent.
"It helps that we've got five players who won this event last year, but you've still got to show the right sort of commitment and they've done that. We got off to a flying start in a couple of the games with a goal in the first minute and that is down to their approach, they work hard right from the start."
Newcastle beat HKFC Captain's Select 2-0 and local First Division side Southern 5-0 before overcoming Leicester City 2-0 in their final match. Leicester finished second in the table to also reach the Cup quarter-finals.
Soccer Sevens debutants Manchester City stumbled in their opening match in group A, drawing 1-1 with local amateurs Yau Yee League Select, but they disposed of Singapore Cricket Club 5-0 and Sunderland 2-0 to top the table.
Five-time Soccer Sevens winners Aston Villa cruised into the Cup quarter-finals by finishing top of group D. Villa were not at their fluent best in their opening match as they beat local amateur team Kowloon Cricket Club 1-0. But they showed their class with a 4-0 victory over Hong Kong First Division club Citizen - with Jack Grealish netting a hat-trick - and finished off with a goalless draw against another local top-flight team, BC Rangers.
Stand-in Villa keeper Jamie Devonshire, who usually plays for Club Albion in the Yau Yee League, enjoyed a dream debut by keeping three clean sheets.
Villa's original keeper Brad Watkins fell sick only hours before the squad left for Hong Kong last Tuesday and no one else was available, so coach Sean Verity approached Football Club for help and he was put in touch with the 26-year-old Devonshire.
"Normally on Friday and Saturday nights I'm out drinking till late," said Devonshire. "But for this tournament I'm safely tucked up in bed by 10pm."
"I'm really pleased for him," said Verity. "Three clean sheets will give him a bit of confidence. It is fantastic for the kid."