AFC Champions League 2017

Think about the match, not the money, Eastern warned

Club official wants his players to focus on their AFC Champions League match against Suwon Samsung after club are promised another hefty bonus should they succeed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 10:58pm

Eastern players have been told to focus on the match and not on the money after another hefty bonus was expected to be given out if the Hong Kong champions get a result against visiting Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the AFC Champions League group stage on Tuesday night.

Team sponsors paid out a massive HK$800,000 bonus when Eastern drew Kawasaki Frontale of Japan 1-1 at home in their last match a fortnight ago, collecting their first-ever Champions League point for a Hong Kong club after Eastern were humbled 7-0 by Guangzhou Evergrande in their opening group G match.

But the club want their players to put less emphasis on monetary rewards and keep their mind on the job at Mong Kok Stadium.

“We have to put thoughts of the bonus away and concentrate on the match. The management will certainly take care of it if we do deliver,” said Eastern club director Peter Leung Shou-chi. “We are fully focused on the match and nothing else.

“Suwon come from a nation who play a much higher standard than us and we are left in no doubt that we will be the underdogs. With the help of the home ground and our loyal fans, we hope to pull off another surprise.”

Tickets at the 6,400-seat venue have been a hot commodity ever since Eastern draw with Kawasaki as fans snapped up tickets, looking forward to another strong performance from the home team.

But Eastern face a more challenging time, missing two key foreign players for the match due to injury. Both striker Manuel Bleda, who scored the only goal against Kawasaki, and utility midfielder Diego Moreira are nursing injuries and will miss the Suwon match.

“It’s difficult to avoid injury when you’re playing a hectic schedule. Obviously, the team has been weakened by the absence of these two foreign players,” said Leung. “But we have to face reality and there’s nothing we can do about players getting injured.”

Speedy forward Jaimes McKee will play alone up front to replace Bleda, while Tse Man-wing is likely to take over the midfield stopper role of Moreira. Fullback Wong Tsz-ho will return to duty after serving out his one-match suspension after being sent off against Guangzhou.

Suwon have drawn their first two games but coach Seo Jung-won is confident of opening their winning account against Eastern. “Hong Kong soccer is improving as they are now playing in the Champions League but we are confident of a victory,” said the former South Korea international.

Meanwhile Evergrande would need to recover quickly from their surprising defeat to Shandong Luneng in the domestic league over the weekend as they play hosts to Kawasaki at Tianhe Stadium.

“I hope people will let go of out mistakes,” said coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. “We lost to Shandong and you just need to know where it goes wrong and solve the problems. We can’t live in sorrow forever and what we have to do now is to make this team more powerful.

“Kawasaki are a team with a long history and although their defence is not so solid, they are good at passing and receiving the ball and the players are also skillful.”