East Asian Cup qualification goes to the wire

Australia and North Korea almost inseparable after three games, and HK still have slim chance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 2:28am


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Qualification for the 2013 East Asian Cup finals will come down to the last day after Australia thrashed Guam 9-0 at Hong Kong Stadium last night.

The resounding win saw the Socceroos go level on points (seven) and goal difference with rivals North Korea albeit the Koreans have a very slight advantage having scored one more goal.

And Hong Kong will insist they aren't out of the reckoning yet, after beating Taiwan 2-0.

If third-placed Hong Kong, who have six points, beat North Korea tomorrow, and Australia are beaten by Taiwan - admittedly highly unlikely - the hosts would advance to next year's finals along with the three nations who are automatically in: Japan, South Korea and China.

Australia coach Holger Osieck insisted North Korea would find it tough against HK.

"I don't care about [levelling] the goal difference because I am pretty sure Hong Kong will give North Korea a tough game," said the German after the slaughter of the Pacific Islanders. "In fact, it's not clear North Korea will beat Hong Kong and I am not convinced about that."

Both Hong Kong's goals came in a two-minute spell midway through the first half and striker Chan Siu-ki was instrumental in both. First he crossed for captain Chan Wai-ho to head home in the 24th minute and when the match restarted, his timely pass gave winger Lee Hong-lim the chance to break through from the left and score with a low drive.

With the support of over 2,000 fans on a chilly night, Hong Kong worked hard for a third goal in the second period; Luk Chi-ho's free-kick bounced off a post, while Chu Siu-kei spurned a great chance when he blasted over.

Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon said the most important thing was to get three points and challenge North Korea in the final match. "We should have scored more goals but as long as we won, we are happy," he said. "Chan Siu-ki did not score as his form is not at his best because he did not get back to training until 10 days ago. But he has done his best to support his fellow teammates."

Taiwan coach Chiang Mu-Tsai said his players couldn't prepare properly, having only had two days to recover from their last match.

The Socceroos dominated from the first minute against exhausted Guam, who were playing their fourth game in seven days and were left chasing shadows. Had it not been for acrobatic saves from Guam goalkeeper Doug Herrick, they might have easily lost by double digits.

"It's an easy victory tonight as we could have easily scored a lot more goals," said Osieck. "It's good it didn't happen because I feel in a way sorry for the other team as it is bad when you get a two-digit score against you."