Against all odds, Hong Kong hold China to 0-0 draw in World Cup qualifier - live blog
'Little brother' gives 'big brother' a big fright in a crunch game in Shenzhen
Like a victory: 'We're counting our blessings,' says Hong Kong coach after raining on China's parade in World Cup qualifier
WOW! A famous win – sorry draw – for Hong Kong as they remain top of the group with seven points from their first three games, with Qatar to come at Mong Kok Stadium next week.
Massive cheers from the visiting fans in the North Stand as the team come to celebrate with them.
China will wonder how on earth they failed to score – they hit the woodwork four times in the first half, while HK had to clear off their own line several times. Yapp Hung-fai made some terrific stops, big centre-half Jean Jacques Kilama was immense at the back, and as the match wore on and China ran out of ideas, the feeling grew that HK could actually take something from this.
Some reaction from the coaches:
“You can say it was a blessed night for Hong Kong,” said HK's Kim Pangon. “I am very proud of the players - even though we are in pre-season we gave our best to hold the opponents. They gave all their and fought for the name of Hong Kong soccer.
“China created a number of good chances in the first half, but our players continued to fight under difficult conditions. That’s more important than luck.”
A bemused China coach Alain Perrin:
“It was disappointing that we failed to win the match at home.
“But it was not one of the most frustrating games of my career.
"This kind of game you can lose, you can get a long ball or corner and concede at any time so though one point is not enough, I know it could have been worse."
FULL TIME! CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0 !!
Yu Dabao seemed to go down ridiculously easily on the edge of HK's box, but a foul was given. Wu Lei's effort was pretty pathetic, straight into the wall, then he punts the rebound over.
Wee bit of Chelsea-style doctor-on-the-pitch confusion as Chan Siu-ki goes down injured - or just looking to waste time - and the officials urge on HK's doctor but coach Kim Pangon orders him to stay put.
China have been restricted to long shots and hopeful crosses this half, and from one of the latter, Hong Kong's Jack Sealy nearly heads past his own keeper - but Yapp gathers comfortably.
Five minutes added time announced to boos from the HK end. China claim hopefully for a penalty from a corner, but again nothing is given.
Yapp and Leung Chun-pong both go down 'injured' - the latter with cramp - but I suspect, as does the crowd, that they're playing for time. China fans begin to head for the exits.
China camp in Hong Kong's final third as the clock ticks down - as they have for most of the game to be honest - before the referee finally blows!
A terrific result for Hong Kong and coach Kim Pan-gon and fans celebrate wildly as the Bauhinia flags are held aloft in HK's end!
CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
HK coach Kim Pan-gon is gesticulating furiously from the touchline, willing his team to keep grafting.
The visitors get a sniff of the ball for once and some nice play from Chan Siu-ki and Lee Chi-ho sees the ball break to Jaimes McKee on the left of the area. He tries to curl one in with his right foot, but it's over the bar.
Straight up the other end, Festus Baise is booked for bringing down a Chinese player right on the edge of the box – so close to being a penalty. Yang Xu heads the resulting free kick just wide as China continue to wonder what they have to do to score.
Godfred Karikari, who has put in a great shift up and down HK's left wing, comes off spent, to be replaced by Xu Deshuai. Both teams have used all their subs.
Five minutes plus stoppage time left as HK pray for the final whistle ... the home fans are not best pleased but have mustered a song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, 9 big China flags waving heartily in the cheerleading corner of the stadium – not sure it's the most stirring melody to be fair
CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
Hong Kong are doing a terrific job of restricting China to long-range shots – Wang Yongpo the latest to fire wide from 20 yards.
Sun Ke comes on for Yu Hanchao, and China have used all their subs.
Yapp makes another good save – although he got himself in trouble by flapping at a first effort from China – to deny Ren Hang's powerful header from 10 yards out. China coach Alain Perrin – and the 24,000-odd home fans – try to highlight his time-wasting at goal kicks to the Australian officials and HK's keeper better be careful not to receive a second yellow.
Kim Pangon brings on fresh legs in the shape of striker Chan Siu-ki for midfielder Lam Ka-wai – it doesn't look like Chan is going straight up front to join McKee however, but he'll be the target for long balls.
Meanwhile, Zheng Zhi blasts another 25-yarder over the bar after a less-than-convincing punch from Yapp. Quarter of an hour left of the siege ...
CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
HK goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai is booked for time-wasting, much to the home crowd's delight. Who can blame him seeking respite from the onslaught.
Wu Lei fires another shot over the bar for China, then Wang Yongpo comes on for Wu Xi in China's midfield as they try to find the breakthrough.
Big cheers as China think they've finally scored from a corner, Yapp and his defence making a mess of things on their own goal line, but the ball trickles wide. From the resulting corner, China come close again.
Alain Perrin brings Yang Xu on up front for Zheng Long.
HK are gifted a corner through a strange mix-up in China's defence, and Festus Baise narrowly fails to get on the end of it, a reminder that one mistake could still see Hong Kong nick this.
Official attendance is 26,173 for those that care.
SECOND HALF - CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
No changes for either team at the break. Out on the concourse are perhaps 200 neatly-arranged shields and riot gear behind a fence, a policeman disconsolately banging his boot with his truncheon, worried that he won't get to bash anyone tonight.
Hong Kong are first to attack in the second half, Jaimes McKee getting on a long ball in the area and trying to twist his way through – it looked like he had a good shout for a penalty, but Australian referee Strebre Delovski waved play on to the disgust of the visiting fans. McKee's got a tremendously difficult task up front on his own, but he's playing well and looks lively on the rare occasions HK can get the ball to him.
China are straight up the other end and Zhang Linpeng tries his luck from 20 yards with a viciously dipping right-footed shot that goes narrowly wide.
Hong Kong are sitting ever deeper and Wu Lei is the latest to come close, forcing a tremendous save from Yapp Hung-fai with a powerful effort from the edge of the box. So far HK continue to hang on ... just. Early sub Jean Jacques Kilama has been tremendous, winning almost everything China send into the box.
HALF-TIME CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
Looked away from the pitch for a moment and Hong Kong won a corner, somewhat unbelievably. Lam Ka-wai forces China goalkeeper Wang Dalei into an uncomfortable-looking punch for another one, then Karikari gets a dangerous low cross in from the left wing – what's going on here HK?
From a third corner, Jean Jacques Kilama heads over from the back post after a good ball from Lam. HK could really have done with making that five minutes or so of pressure count.
As underlined moments later – Kilama clears another off the line, and it's blasted back in from Zheng Zhi, rocketing off the crossbar. Four times now China have hit the woodwork.
No idea how this is still 0-0 – but like the rest of HK's fans, I'm not complaining. Let's see if the goal on the other side of the pitch is as lucky for Hong Kong in the second half.
Alain Perrin, China's manager, probably can't be too unhappy – his team could easily be four or five up but for some last-ditch on-the-line defending from the visitors and just plain dumb luck.
8.10pm: 35 minutes in. CHINA 0 HONG KONG 0
HK left-back Lee Chi-ho misses a header and Zhang Linpeng – somewhat unprobably linked with a move to Chelsea just ahead of transfer deadline day – should have been clean in but stepped on the ball, perhaps showing why Chelsea had second thoughts.
China then have another effort cleared off the line, this time by Festus Baise. Yapp first made an excellent save from Yu Dabao after a long-range shot fell to the striker in the area. From the rebound, Wu Lei should have scored but Baise just got back in time.
I make that two off the woodwork, and two off the line from China.
Godfred Karikari has an effort, of sorts, for Hong Kong, but his scuffed long-ranger barely makes it through to China's keeper, much to the disgust of HK lone forward Jaimes McKee. Can't blame him for wanting to get a shot away with sights on goal rarer than a decent sandwich in China, but HK need to be patient if and when they manage to get it up front.
Make that three off the woodwork - Yu Dabao rattles Yapp's right post from 10 yards after a long ball completely caught out HK.
8pm: 25 minutes in.
Wu Xi is next to come close for China, the midfielder belting an effort narrowly wide of Yapp's left-hand post from the edge of the area - but after the initial surge of pressure from China, Hong Kong have regrouped, at least a little.
The atmosphere in the stadium also seems to have dulled, not helped by the large distance from the stands to the pitch – surrounded by a running track – and an open design around the top tier that would seem to let noise out.
On the very rare occasions that HK have managed to get near China's penalty box, a sort of angry low growl has erupted from the drum-bangers in the north stand. A few grumbles of discontent from the home fans starting to be heard ...
Hong Kong have been rather lucky to still be at 0-0, and need to frustrate the home fans for another 20 minutes to get in at half-time and regroup.
Ten minutes in, and HK have been out of their own half once. Yu Hanchao had a half-chance immediately for China which was easily saved by Yapp Hung-fai, then a free kick and subsequent corner required two nervy defensive headers, before Yu Dabao headed narrowly wide for the hosts.
HK have already had to use one of their subs, Jean Jacques Kilama replacing the injured Lam Ka-wai.
China's tactic early on seems to be to get it wide and whip in crosses. HK have nine men in two narrow banks parked in front of the 18-yard line, but it's not denying China much - and even as I type that, China captain Zheng Zhi hits the post with a great shot from 25 yards.
HUGE CHANCE then for China, Yu Hanchao played through, and taking the ball round Yapp. Kilama's sliding tackle pushes the ball on to a post, preventing a certain goal. From the resulting corner, Ren Hang heads just wide.
Could be 3-0 to the hosts already ...
7.35pm: Well, that's the first potential drama of the night out of the way without trouble – Hong Kong fans stood up nicely for the national anthem of the People's Republic of China. Even had they been inclined to boo, it's unlikely they would have been heard over the 8000db PA.
A gigantic China flag, perhaps 10m x 20m, floats across the North Stand, where China's most vociferous, clearly well-organised, fans are.
After the anthems, “We are Hong Kong” is the shout from the South Stand, where the away fans – and half the police in Shenzhen – are.
And we're off! HK in white, China in red.
7.25pm: It's 10 minutes from kick-off and much of the stadium is awash in China's red, with fans still filtering in. Only 27,000 tickets were made available for the 40,000-seat ground for “security reasons”, so it won't be a full house, but those present are already creating plenty of noise.
The first big test for Hong Kong coming up – will the travelling fans respect the China national anthem?
It’s just over an hour until kick-off here, with the stadium starting to fill up. Already, one end of the stadium is packed with red-clad China fans, waving flags, banging drums and making a decent noise.
The small contingent of HK fans who are in the stadium are crammed into three sections of seats behind the other goal, surrounded on all sides by perhaps 300 security officials dressed in black.
Outside, more than two hours before kick-off, the police and other security forces were out in huge numbers, with maybe 50 police and paramilitary vehicles parked outside the stadium on the way to the media access point.
Hong Kong fans might conceivably be outnumbered by security forces – who knows what they fear might happen, but authorities are clearly taking nothing to chance.
Meanwhile, here are the teams:
China: Wang Dalei; Ren Hang, Jiang Zhipeng, Zhang Linpeng, Mei Fang; Zheng Zhi, Wu Xi; Wu Lei, Zheng Long, Yu Hanchao, Yu Dabao.
Hong Kong: Yapp Hung-fai; Lee Chi-ho, Jack Sealy, Chan Wai-ho, Festus Baise; Lam Ka-wai, Bai He, Huang Yang, Leung Chun-pong, Godfred Karikari; Jaimes McKee
Good evening and welcome to Bao'An Stadium in Shenzhen, where Hong Kong face 'big brother' China for the first time in a competitive match since a 7-0 hiding in 2004.
With China's national anthem booed at Hong Kong's most recent World Cup qualifiers, and amid tensions between the SAR and its bosses in Beijing, a feisty atmosphere looks in store - though the 2,000-odd travelling Hong Kong fans have been warned they could face jail if they get too unruly.
On the same day that China trumpeted its military power to the world, can HK rain on Xi's parade? Or will they be crushed by the sheer might of the motherland? Stay tuned to find out.