Hong Kong coach Ernie Merrick insists team can cope without key men
Coach Ernie Merrick insists he can cope without key players against Malaysia tonight
With an important East Asian Championship qualifier looming, Hong Kong coach Ernie Merrick is aiming to prove he can deliver a side capable of performing under pressure against Malaysia tonight.
The game may only be a friendly, but with a number of key players missing, Merrick will have to show he can cope with the limited resources available.
Centre backs Lee Chi-ho and Chan Wai-ho withdrew and centre forward Chan Siu-ki, who plays for Guangdong based Chinese First Division side Sunray Cave, is nowhere to be found. Two other regulars - Leung Chun-pong and Godfred Karikari, who both play in China - are injured.
Chan Siu-ki, who has scored 32 international goals for Hong Kong, could not be contacted despite a week-long effort by the Hong Kong Football Association.
"We have to move on," said Merrick. "All I can do is to choose a squad, train them and prepare them and keep the spirit up. I have been a coach for more than 30 years and have enough to deal with these situations."
Liu Songwei and Bai He, who both play in midfield at club level, will be in central defence, while youngster Lam Hok-hei will be the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation.
"All of a sudden if this team do quite well and then we get three or four coming back into the side, we are building up a bit of depth," said Merrick. "Sometimes you have to go with a little bit of inexperience into a game, see how you manage and give opportunities to players."
Liu asked the fans to get behind the new-look side.
"I played in central defence when I was in China and there is no problem for me to play that position again," said the 23-year-old. "People may say we are inexperienced but I prefer to do the talking on the pitch."
Captain Lo Kwan-yee insisted: "We have shown great team spirit during training and I don't think the team is weakened because of the absences. Siu-ki is not playing up front this time but we do have a strong midfield to support the attack. We can still work very well as a unit."
Malaysia are missing nine regulars due to club commitments for Saturday's Malaysia Cup. They are using the match as build-up for next month's Asean Football Federation Cup.