Hong Kong know they need to sort out their defence as they take on Taiwan in East Asian Cup qualifying

The two defenders are former clubmates before going their separate ways and the EAFF Championship gives them a chance to renew their links

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 10:24am

Hong Kong’s defence comes under the microscope when they face Taiwan on Wednesday in the EAFF Championship second round at Mong Kok Stadium.

While a victory is pivotal in keeping the pressure on tournament favourites North Korea, they also need to avoid conceding cheap goals because goal difference may count towards qualification in the four-team tournament, with the top side going through after a single round robin.

Hong Kong beat Guam 3-2 in their opening game but the Koreans are leading the table following their 2-0 win over Taiwan.

The home team were holding a three-goal cushion against the Pacific Islanders with 20 minutes left before losing two late goals.

Head coach Kim Pan-gon has acknowledged the problem, urging his players not to repeat the same mistakes.

“We won’t change too much from the approach we played against Guam as we will be looking for early goals and try to score as many as possible but at the same time it would be important to keep a clean sheet,” said the coach.

“We want to win the ball in the first or second lines so that we can weave quick counters and dominate the game but the defence must also keep alert of the opponents.

“Taiwan have some fast players who are playing in China and who are strong physically and mentally. We must respect them.”

Kim’s plan might be affected by the absence of towering centre half Andrew Russell who injured his left knee against Guam, but central defender Helio Goncalves is an adequate replacement.

And the naturalised player would be keen to regain his partnership with former teammate Festus Baise in the heart of Hong Kong defence.

The duo worked together for six seasons at Citizen before moving to different teams. Baise played an important role for Guizhou Zhicheng in the China League one, helping the mainland club to gain promotion to the Super League next season while Goncalves is with Hong Kong side Kitchee.

“We used to play for a long time together and know how to communicate with each other,” said Goncalves. “We can make a good combination in defence. We will be good.”

The centre half said he did not play well for Hong Kong in his international debut against Myanmar in June but that’s now in the past.

“That was my first game [for Hong Kong] … I was a bit nervous and not focused enough but I think I did well in the match against Singapore – marking, staying in position and now I know what Kim wants me to do,” he said.

Defensive midfielder Huang Yang, who had an impressive match against Guam, might be rested to prepare for the North Korea game with Roberto Affonso Junior a possible candidate while Kim may also field Lee Hong-lim as left back ahead of Cheng King-ho.

Meanwhile, in the women’s competition, Hong Kong suffered a 5-0 defeat by Taiwan in their first match at Football Club Ground on Tuesday while South Korea thrashed Guam 13-0 in an earlier game.