Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon remains upbeat despite Asian Cup qualifying defeat by Lebanon
Hosts win 2-0 at Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium on Tuesday thanks to first half goals from Mohamad Ghaddar and Hassan Maatouk in group B opener
Coach Kim Pan-gon believes Hong Kong can build on this week’s defeat by Lebanon at the start of their qualifying campaign for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup after recovering somewhat from conceding twice in the first half en route to losing 2-0 in Beirut.
Mohamad Ghaddar and Hassan Maatouk scored in the first half for the hosts on Tuesday at Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium as Lebanon made the ideal start to their campaign in group B.
For Hong Kong, it was a game of two halves as midfielder Leung Chun-pong went close for Kim’s side after the break before second half substitute Ju Yingzhi saw his free kick hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
“It’s hard to say we made mistakes as we were struggling in the first half, but I want to say the opponents were very acute while we also had some bad luck,” said Kim.
“But we were very impressive after the break as we started to dominate the game and the new players who got there in the second period also impressed me.”
Hong Kong have to wait until June to welcome North Korea in the next outing in group B as Kim’s side seek to build on the positives taken from the previous round of qualifiers, which included draws with neighbours China.
“In the end we can hold our heads up as the players never gave up. In fact, I spoke to my players before the match that it was very important not to lose the match, but more importantly we needed to deliver a strong message to Hong Kong society that we can fight until the end and keep our pride,” added Kim.
“There are still five more matches and I am confident we can make a very good team when we come back in June for the other matches.”
Watch: Lebanon 2 Hong Kong 0 highlights
North Korea were not in qualifying action during this international break as their meeting with Malaysia was postponed to before their visit to Hong Kong in June due to security concerns, although a venue has yet to be decided.
“We needed to improve something in the next match,” said Hong Kong’s Festus Baise, who has made a strong start to the new Chinese Super League season with Guizhou Zhicheng.
“We conceded goals from two set pieces which showed our marking was not tight enough.
“We need to push ourselves a little bit more harder because it is not easy at this level. But it was just the first game and there are five more. I believe we can still qualify.”
Hong Kong had earlier suffered a 4-0 friendly defeat by Jordan, with coach Kim giving opportunities to some of the younger members of his squad as he explores his options for the long campaign ahead.
“We weren’t that sharp in the first half as a lapse of concentration cost us dearly,” said Ju, who plays for Hong Kong Premier League champions Eastern.
“I suffered a long injury last season and was not part of the coaches’ original plan. But both midfield playmakers – Lam Ka-wai of Kitchee and [Itaparica] of Tai Po – were injured and not available.
“That’s why I was given the opportunity, although it was only a brief period which I found it difficult to prove other than the free kick.”