Captain wants young players to use Guangdong clash to challenge for places in Asian Cup qualifiers

Tan Chun-lok says the inexperienced squad can show what they can do, despite facing a 3-2 deficit, in the second leg in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 6:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 8:51pm

Captain Tan Chun-lok urged his teammates to rise to the challenge as they attempt to overturn a 3-2 deficit against Guangdong in the second leg of the annual Interport Cup at Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old midfielder scored the first goal for an inexperienced Hong Kong side against the mainlanders in Guangzhou on Sunday. Although it was Tan’s second successive goal in the annual tournament, Hong Kong face a massive task if they want to win back the trophy in front of their home crowd, having failed to lift the trophy over the past three years.

“We are pretty much an experimental side with so many young faces in the squad and facing such a daunting task,” said the skipper, who spent his youth career with two English sides - Peterborough United and Northampton Town – before returning to Hong Kong to continue his professional career three years ago.

“There were many reasons that we cannot send the strongest squad in the Interport Cup but the players must take the opportunity once they have been selected and prove they are not here to just make up the numbers.

“We were indeed almost there by scoring twice in the away leg and needed just a little bit more to accomplish the job. We lost in Guangzhou due to some silly defensive mistakes but the match is not over yet. We must keep focused and be aggressive in the home leg. It’s always a big pleasure if we can beat them and lift the trophy before the home fans.”

Top clubs such as champions Eastern, Kitchee and South China were not too willing to release their best players for the two-round competition that takes place in mid-season because of a hectic schedule.

The Football Association has therefore selected a young squad for the competition.

With the 2019 Asian Cup qualification due to kick off in March, Tan hoped a good performance in the Interport Cup could bolster his chance of making it to the Hong Kong team for the qualifiers.

“It’s not just me but also my fellow young players in the Interport Cup,” he said. “There is always another chance and you never know but we must deliver first when the opportunity is there.”

There was a good news for Hong Kong ahead of the second leg with Guangdong captain Lu Lin not travelling with the squad.

The Guangzhou R&F striker had two assists in the first leg and his speed and scoring power was always the mainlanders’ biggest threat.

Guangdong have dominated the annual Interport Cup, which is aimed at promoting soccer ties between the regions. The mainland side have won 23 times since the event was first introduced in 1979 while Hong Kong have 15 victories.