Hong Kong spot on as they regain Interport Cup against Guangdong
Goalkeeper Yuen Ho-chun the hero as he pulls off a series of saves including two crucial stops in the penalty shoot-out as young guns take trophy back home
Goalkeeper Douglas Yuen Ho-chun pulled off a string of fine saves during regulation and then worked his magic in the penalty shoot-out as Hong Kong pulled off the improbable by regaining the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup for the first time in five years in Guangzhou on Sunday.
Hong Kong won the first leg earlier in the week 2-0 but conceded two goals in regulation in a match that finished 2-2 on aggregate at the end of extra-time.
The match all came down to penalties and Hong Kong, made up mainly of under-23 players, held their nerve to win the shoot-out 4-2 and win the coveted interport trophy for the first time since 2013.
“The boys performed really well under the circumstances,” said interim Hong Kong coach Kenneth Kwok Ka-lok. “We are a young side and some of the players were suffering from injuries and even illness so that made it more difficult. But we had fire in our bellies and we handled the pressure, even in the penalty shootout where we held our own. We rose to the occasion. It wasn’t an easy thing to do,” he said.
Hong Kong probably wouldn’t have regained the traditional new year cup, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary, had it not been for the exploits of Yuen.
The Hong Kong Pegasus goalkeeper had a blinder of a game, stopping Xiao Zhi’s close-range shot in the 10th minute before an acrobatic, flying save kept out Yang Chaosheng’s attempt in regulation time.
Yuen was unable to keep out Lu Lin’s 41st-minute penalty but the burly goalie shone like a beacon when he was called into action again in Hong Kong’s hour of need.
In the penalty ritual, Yuen showed why he should be called up to the senior squad for the team’s crucial Asian Cup qualifier against North Korea in March as his heroics paved the way for a Hong Kong victory.
He was in outstanding form when it mattered in the penalty ritual, first gaining revenge on Lu Lin by diving to his right and stopping the Guangzhou R & F midfielder’s shot. He then stopped Zheng Chao’s spot-kick.
Hong Kong’s Leung Kwun-chung, Li Ngai-hoi, Wong Tsz-ho and finally Tse Long-hin were successful with their spot-kicks with Tse sparking off a massive celebration in the Hong Kong camp after burying his effort past Guangdong goalkeeper Hou Yu.
Hong Kong conceded their first goal in the 41st minute when Chak Ting-fung was adjudged to have fouled Lu Lin inside the box. Lu confidently put his side one up.
The visitors found themselves two goals down in the 68th minute when Chak put the ball into his own net under pressure from a right-wing cross by Guangdong, but Hong Kong had the final say in the end.
With the interport cup back in Hong Kong’s hands, it means interim Hong Kong coach Kwok has got off to a winning start in 2018.
Kwok, who took over the duties of outgoing coach Kim Pan-gon last month, had his first taste of football at senior level in the interport. Kwok only met some of the youngsters for the first time last month in Hong Kong’s first training session but he has now announced himself a possible candidate to replace Kim as permanent head coach.