Fulham brush aside South China

Lavish cash incentive fails to inspire Caroliners

Not even the lure of a HK$400,000 win bonus could inspire South China last night as they lost 4-1 to Fulham in the Barclays Asia Trophy third-place play-off.

Man of the match Li Haiqiang, who had stolen the glory with his wonder strike against Liverpool in Tuesday's loss to the Merseysiders, failed to find the target against the Londoners this time, but he did play a role in the goal that gave the hosts a flicker of hope after they went in at half-time 2-0 down.

Playmaker Li crossed from the left in the 57th minute for Brazilian forward Flavio Barros, a second-half substitute, to tap home. But that was the best the Caroliners could offer despite team management's promise of the lucrative cash reward for victory.

Li unloaded a number of trademark left-footed shots, but his efforts were in vain.

'I was not disappointed with my performance in both games, but the more important thing was we have learned some great lessons against two top sides from the Premier League.'

Coach Jose Luis Lopez da Costa admitted there were problems with their defence after conceding seven goals in two matches, but he said the team needed such high level competition in pre-season so that they could improve when the season starts.

'Although I was not happy with the final score, we did well, especially in the second half after we pulled back one goal and forced the opponents on the defensive,' said the Portuguese coach.

He also hopes fans will come back when the new domestic season starts in September.

After losing to Portsmouth on Tuesday, Fulham were in no mood to fall again against the local treble trophy winners.

The English side were in total control from the opening stages. They did not have to wait too long before Papa Diop headed home a free-kick in the 20th minute.

Captain Carlos Bocanegra made it 2-0 with another header from a corner in the 41st. The Cottagers came under some pressure after South China narrowed the gap, but they were never seriously threatened.

Unmarked David Healy, signed in the off-season from Leeds, then settled the match with an easy finish in the 73rd minute before second-half substitute Brian McBride closed out the scoring with another close-ange effort in the 83rd minute.

'I told the players not to disappoint again with another sloppy performance and it was a difficult game for us,' said Fulham coach Lawrie Sanchez.

The coach praised new signing Healy for his brilliant efforts.

'I was pleased to see Healy score as he worked hard both in training and the match to try to prove himself.'

The Fulham coach also praised the organisation of the tournament, saying they had 'seven fantastic days in Hong Kong'.

'We had some good workouts under the conditions and leave with many fond memories,' he added.