Chelsea and Sunderland wary of Kitchee in Soccer Sevens
Rangers Legends kick off title defence with victory over Kowloon Cricket Club in masters tournament
Chelsea and Sunderland are wary of facing Hong Kong champions Kitchee at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens on Saturday, with the 2011 champions posing a big threat to the two English sides progressing to the Cup quarter-finals.
Chelsea U-21 coach Dermot Drummy said Hong Kong's weather and the presence of Sunderland and Kitchee in their group stage could threaten their bid to win the Cup after previous attempts in 2000, when they reached the final, and two years ago when his side lost to the Black Cats in the quarter-finals.
"Every game is tough. The thing here is the physicality and the weather," said Drummy, who also managed Chelsea in Hong Kong two years ago.
"I've seen it in these tournaments. It drains people very quickly, so the emphasis is on keeping the ball.
"We know Kitchee will be quick and that if we give the ball away it'll be hard to get it back, but we're good at keeping the ball.
"The difference for our boys is to play in this weather and on this [astroturf] pitch, so they've got to acclimatise very quickly.
"We want the boys to problem solve on the pitch and hopefully they'll do that."
Chelsea will be captained by tall centre-back Alex Davey, one of several players from the club's U21 Premier League-winning squad.
Striker Islam Feruz, midfielders Billy Clifford and Charlie Colkett, defenders Alex Davey, Adam Nditi and Fankaty Dabo, and towering goalkeeper Jamal Blackman were also involved in Chelsea's U21 success, which was capped by a 2-1 play-off final win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Kevin Ball is leading Sunderland for a third straight year, as the side look to build on reaching the semi-finals on their previous appearances in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
However, Ball admits that getting through the group stage could prove a tricky task, with Kitchee fielding a full-strength side from the squad that won a third Hong Kong First Division title in four seasons.
"Chelsea have had a fantastic season with their U-21s and U-18s, while Kitchee are the champions here, so it's a challenge for the lads," said Ball, the former Sunderland captain.
HKFC Captain's Select round out a tough group B in the 16-team Main Tournament.
Meanwhile in Friday night action, former Netherlands striker Michael Mols scored a late winner to kick off Rangers Legends defence of their Masters title with a 1-0 win over Kowloon Cricket Club.
KCC fielded the likes of Scottish stars Pat Nevin and James Grady.
“Michael’s prolific in front of goal. He had one or two chances in the first half, but the keeper pulled off some good saves," KCC midfielder Alex Rae said.
"We created enough chances and maybe we could have had one or two penalties, but it’s three points."
Rangers Legends lead group A, after debutants Wallsend Boys Club drew 1-1 with local club United Services Recreation Club (USRC).
Aegon Ajax All Stars, winners in 2012 and last year’s finalists, beat hosts HKFC veterans 2-0 in group B with goals by Gerald Sibon and Kenneth Perez, Player of the Tournament for the past two years.
Also in group B, 2011 champions Eastern Salon Original opened the tournament with a comfortable 2-0 win over HKFC Chairman’s Select, the hosts’ second-string side in the Masters.
Jason Lee and David Johnson, with a penalty, scored as Nottingham Forest Mobsters beat 2010 champions KFC Tokyo 2-1.
The English club, with former England star Des Walker in defence, lead group C after favourites Citibank All Stars played out a scoreless draw with SCC Tigers from Singapore in the last match.