Hong Kong coach Merrick waits on Chan's return to duty
Hong Kong coach does not yet know if striker will be released for match against Malaysia
Striker Chan Siu-ki's return to international soccer is still in doubt as the Hong Kong team get ready for next Tuesday's friendly against Malaysia.
Chan, now playing for the Chinese First Division side Sunray Cave, was among the 23-strong squad announced last week by coach Ernie Merrick.
But it is still not known if the struggling Chinese side, who are lying 12th in the 16-team league, will release Chan, a prolific scorer, for international duty.
After the Hong Kong team's 4-2 victory over Sun Hei in a training match at Po Kong Village Road Park yesterday, Merrick said: "We have contacted Sunray Cave and are still waiting to hear from them. We expect them to let us know later this week.
"Chan is Hong Kong's record scorer [32 goals] and we have missed him for a couple of games. I am keen to get him back."
Chan pulled out of the Hong Kong team in May before a friendly against Singapore. He cited "personal" reasons for the decision after his contract with South China was terminated prematurely.
He joined Sunray Cave of Guangdong in July and has since been missing from international duty.
Another striker, Godfred Karikari, who plays for the Chinese Super League side Henan, will miss the match against Malaysia as he has not recovered from a knee injury.
In the absence of Chan and Karikari, Merrick had to deploy several attacking midfielders to play up front yesterday, including Sun Pegasus's Ju Yingzhi and Kitchee's Lam Ka-wai.
Ju, who missed the whole of last season with a knee problem, has played a starring role for his club this term and was among the scorers yesterday. "He played well, scored a goal and passed the ball well," Merrick said.
Ju, a former member of China's national youth team, last represented Hong Kong in the 2011 Interport Cup against Guangdong. "It's great to back in the team," Ju said. "I prefer playing in the midfield rather than up front, but I won't worry about that as I am part of the team."
Meanwhile, Hong Kong have been drawn against Uzbekistan, the UAE and Vietnam in group E of the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers, which begin next year.
Merrick admitted it was a tough group, but said: "It all comes down to what sort of commitment the club and the players are willing to make."
The top two teams from each of the five groups, along with the best third-placed team among all the groups, will qualify for the finals, which will be held in Australia.
Hong Kong beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in the group stage of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. They also drew 1-1 with UAE at Guangzhou. In 2006, Hong Kong drew with Uzbekistan twice (2-2 away and 0-0 at home) in the Asian Cup qualifiers. Hong Kong last met Vietnam at Mong Kok Stadium in June, when they lost to the visitors 2-1 in a friendly.