Hockey superstar Sohail Abbas left scoreless in debut in Hong Kong
Sohail Abbas, the world's best penalty-corner specialist, foiled in first outing for Punjab club
They all turned up to watch Sohail Abbas display his legendary drag flick but Kowloon Cricket Club and goalkeeper Kelson Wong Ka-shun denied the hockey superstar from grabbing the limelight, leaving the world's best penalty-corner specialist scoreless at the end of the day.
Punjab Sports Club still won handsomely, 4-1, to stay on top of the Hong Kong Premier League but a larger than normal crowd at Happy Valley were left disappointed that the former Pakistan captain couldn't find the back of the net.
"I came to see him," said Valley veteran Roger Thompson, who played earlier in the day on another pitch before turning up for the day's big clash. He was one of many other players who hung around after their games to see Abbas in action. An Indian woman seated on the bleachers asked, "So what number is this short-corner specialist".
Abbas was No 9, but it wasn't an especially lucky number for him in his Hong Kong debut. The man who has scored goals against all the world's best defences at Olympic Games, World Cups and Asian Games had limited opportunities and those were fluffed with his teammates, the pusher and the stopper, not really working in tandem to set up the best opportunity for the champion drag flicker.
"This is my first game with my new team so I think it will take some time for us to start working together," said Abbas. "Of course I'm disappointed I didn't score but the main thing is we won the game. Hopefully I can get my first Hong Kong goal next time, when I believe we will have our top pusher back after suspension."
His best chance came early in the first half when he drag-flicked a shot to the top right-hand corner, only for KCC custodian Wong to tip it over the bar. Wong, who had watched videos of Abbas in action before the match, was over the moon afterwards.
"It's a wonderful experience to keep a clean sheet against the world's best drag-flicker. He is world class and it was a challenge. This is great that we have the opportunity of playing against some of the best and I'm really happy that he couldn't score. Now the pressure is on him to deliver," Wong said.
The other imports for Punjab made a sound start. Canadian Olympian Sukhwinder Singh Gabbar hammered home a brace, his first a reverse shot from an impossible angle, while Pakistan international Waseem Ahmad was also on target. Punjab's fourth goal was scored by Mohamed Nadeem.
"This is great for Hong Kong hockey that we come up against such top calibre players," said former Hong Kong international Chris Marshall, who scored KCC's goal. "I have played on two previous occasions against Sohail in the Asia Cup but I never thought I would meet him on a Hong Kong pitch. I'm happy that he didn't score this time."