Hong Kong cast aside Jorn Andersen’s prematch concerns to make a winning start to their Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Kolkata on Wednesday evening with a 2-1 victory over Group D rivals Afghanistan. Two goals in four first-half minutes from Wong Wai and Matt Orr sent Hong Kong on their way to the win in hot conditions at the cavernous Salt Lake Stadium, as Andersen’s team overcame the absence of a host of key players to take all three points. Only the winners of the group, which also features India and Cambodia, are sure to advance to the finals next year, where they will be joined by the five best runners-up from the six qualification groups being played across the continent. Hong Kong have not qualified for the Asian Cup since 1968 and the Norwegian had voiced his frustration at not being able to secure his China-based players for the qualifiers, tempering expectations as a result. But there were to be few concerns despite the selection of an inexperienced side, that had a total of 158 caps between them when the starting line-up was announced. Andersen preferred Wang Zhenpeng ahead of veteran Yapp Hung-fai in goal in an inexperienced line-up that featured eight players with 10 caps or fewer with one, Kitchee’s Sean Tse Ka-keung, making his debut at the heart of the defence. It was Tse who threatened first for Hong Kong, directing Wong Wai’s corner towards the far post wide of the target as Andersen’s side made an encouraging start, with Sun Ming-him lively down the left. Hong Kong not ‘100 per cent’ ahead of Asian Cup qualifiers, admits Andersen But there was a sense of uncertainty in the opening exchanges, too, with Tse bailed out by the pace of captain Huang Yang after Omid Popalzay was gifted possession in the Hong Kong half. Any nerves, though, were settled midway through the half when Wong Wai gave Hong Kong the lead. Orr’s lay-off was played into the path of Wong Wai by Ju Yingzhi, and the young playmaker struck with a bouncing shot from 25 yards out that beat goalkeeper Ovays Azizi to his left. Four minutes later the advantage was doubled as Hong Kong again exploited Azizi’s weakness with shots from distance. Law Tsz-chun cut in from the left and, after drawing in a pair of defenders, slipped the ball through for Orr, who controlled the ball with his first touch and shot with his second from the edge of the area to beat the Afghan keeper, this time to his right. Wong Wai shot over the bar as Hong Kong sought a third, while Sun should have extended his side’s advantage with six minutes remaining, only to find Azizi’s hands instead of the back of the net. Afghanistan, fielding a team composed largely of players selected from lower-division clubs from across the globe, rarely threatened. Qamaruddin Kouhyar had two glimpses of goal late in the opening 45 minutes but neither caused goalkeeper Wang undue concern. Hong Kong had looked more likely to find the net again, with Azizi keeping out Philip Chan Siu-kwan’s header before tipping another Orr effort from distance over the bar. A late strike into the roof of the net from Afghan captain Farshad Noor after Hong Kong failed to clear a corner ensured a nervous finale but Andersen’s team held on for an opening win ahead of their second qualifier against Cambodia on Saturday. Scorers: Hong Kong (W Wai, 23; M Orr 27) Afghanistan (Farshad Noor, 81). Hong Kong (3-5-2): Wang Zhenpeng – Law Tsz-chun, Fung Hing-wa, Wong Tsz-ho (sub: Leung Kwun-chung, 69 min) – Yue Tze-nam, Ju Yingzhi (sub: Philip Chan Siu-kwan, 46), Wong Wai (sub: Ngan Lok-fung, 68), Huang Yang (sub: Tomas Maronesi, 88), Sean Tse – Matthew Orr, Sun Ming-him (sub: Jahangir Khan, 89). Substitutes not used: Yapp Hung-fai, Paulo César, Yu Wai-lim, Ryan Lau, Diego Eli, Wu Chun-ming, Jesse Yu. Booked: Sun Ming-him, Ngan Lok-fung. Afghanistan (3-5-2): O Azizi – David Najem (sub: Faisal Shayesteh, 74), Maziar Kouhyar, Najim Haidary (sub: Zubayr Amiri, 75) – Sharif Mukhammad, Omid Popalzay (sub: Omid Musawi, 46), Zelfy Nazary, Farshad Noor, Noor Husin (sub: Zohib Amiri, 46) – Omran Haydari, Mustafa Azadzoy (sub: Mushtaq Ahmadi, 46). Substitutes not used: Faisal Hamidi, Hosseini Helal, Masih Saighani, Milad Intezar, Abbasin Alikhil, Mustafa Zazai, Fareed Sadat.