Fans stay out of trouble as Hong Kong see off Singapore
Concerns about a repeat of crowd trouble at Philippines match prove unfounded
There were plenty of disgruntled fans at last night's friendly between Hong Kong and Singapore at Mong Kok Stadium, but they did not cross the line as happened on the last occasion when this city's football was caught in the glare of international criticism.
The last time an international was played at this ground, in June, it ended in crowd trouble and racial mudslinging between the home team and visitors the Philippines. It also put Hong Kong under the Fifa microscope with the world governing body cracking down on racism.
The Philippines won 1-0 and last night there also just one goal, but it was in Hong Kong's favour. There would have been more if the home team's finishing had been better and if luck had gone their way.
There might be a friendly rivalry between the two cities but other than that there is no history of tense relations as between Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The Hong Kong Football Association did not take any chances, asking the 3,990 fans to be on best behaviour as it was still under investigation by Fifa. Apart from boos at the referee - for turning down a clear goal in the first half - and the opposition players, the fans behaved, much to the relief of HKFA chief executive Mark Sutcliffe.
"Fifa has not written back to us to say what action, if they are to take any, will be taken over the behaviour of a small section of fans last time, and perhaps no news is good news," he said. "But Singapore is not the Philippines and we didn't expect any problems. Before the game, we had met police and other officials and the consensus was that there was no need to worry."
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon will, however, face a few headaches as he tries to put some teeth into Hong Kong's attack before next month's crucial Asian Cup qualifying match against the United Arab Emirates.
The last two friendlies - the other a scoreless draw against Myanmar last week - have proven Hong Kong still lack the killer instinct in front of goal. To be fair, last night they were denied twice, first by the refereeing blunder and then the crossbar, which could have given a comfortable 2-0 lead at half-time.
A header by right winger Jaimes McKee midway through the first half was clearly seen in replay on the big screen to have crossed the line and into the side netting before bouncing back into the Singaporean goalkeeper's hand. But neither the Bangladeshi referee nor the linesman spotted it and the goal was not given.
It was left to Pegasus midfielder Bai He to get the goal. In the 60th minute, he was quick to react to a spilled save by the Singaporean keeper from a corner and he knocked in the rebound.