Six and counting as Aston Villa secure another HKFC Soccer Sevens title
The Villans extend their incredible winning record in annual showpiece, defeating West Ham 2-0, while the Citi All Stars win the masters’ tournament
Aston Villa extended their incredible winning record at the HKFC Soccer Sevens on Sunday when they were crowned champions for a sixth time after overcoming the early loss of their goalkeeper to beat West Ham 2-0 in the Main Cup final.
In an action-packed finale at Sports Road, the Aston Villa goalkeeper Matija Sarkic had to be taken off with an elbow injury early on after making a superb reflex save. With no substitute goalkeeper available, Villa were forced to send on defender Mitch Clark to deputise in his place.
That early blow didn’t affect the Villans, who last won the competition in 2010, as they dominated possession before forward Harry McKirdy put them 1-0 in front with a cool finish under the West Ham goalkeeper Nathan Trott after a burst from midfield.
Their advantage was doubled early in the second half when forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy finished a fine solo effort by burying a right-footed shot in the bottom corner after taking on a defender on the edge of the penalty box.
McKirdy finished the tournament as leading goalscorer with six goals.
“It’s brilliant. I’ve been coming for the last three years and we had a great team two years ago,” said the 19-year-old. “We were disappointed last year, but I think – with a young team – all the boys have been unbelievable. To win a tournament like this is brilliant. It’s what we wanted.
“We won every game, only conceded one goal. We were the best team here to be fair so we deserve to win.”
For 17-year-old Hepburn-Murphy, the second-youngest player to make a league appearance in Aston Villa’s history, the result was the culmination of a weekend of hard work.
“We worked as hard as we could throughout the whole weekend,” said Hepburn-Murphy. “Playing in this heat is very difficult but the lads ground it out for the last game.
“It’s been an amazing tournament. The lads have been great. The team effort has been outstanding, and to get a goal in the final was a great way to seal the tournament.
“We’ll definitely be back next year if you invite us,” added the youngster.
In the run-up to the competition, Aston Villa under-21s manager Gordon Cowans was adamant that his young team were here to win the tournament and build on their fine record at Hong Kong Football Club. He spoke of his pride at his players’ achievement.
“We’ve played very well and we’ve won every game,” said the Villa legend, who won a European Cup with the club during his time as a player. “Obviously, we’re pleased with that and the young lads have done themselves proud.”
Elsewhere in the tournament, Citi All Stars claimed the Masters title with a 3-1 win over defending champions USRC.
Former Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers player David Thompson netted twice for the All Star team, with ex-Derby County and Jamaica international Deon Burton grabbing the other.
All Star’s Vladimir Smicer expressed his relief that the team of former professionals was able to live up to its star billing.
“We feel happy, of course,” said the Uefa Champions League winner. “We lost the first game because we didn’t know at the start how to play this tournament, but we found out since then and I think we played well. It was a fantastic experience for me.”