Asian Games 2018: Hong Kong soccer team at centre of sportsmanship row after bad-tempered draw with Palestine
The draw keeps Hong Kong’s fate in their own hands and a point against the hosts will see them into the last-16 stage
Hong Kong’s men should have been celebrating a hard-fought and impressively won point after a 1-1 draw with group-topping Palestine meant just a point in their final group game against hosts Indonesia will see them through to the last 16 in soccer competition at the Asian Games. Instead, coach Kenneth Kwok Kar-lok was forced to bat away accusations that his team resorted to dirty tactics in the match.
Kwok’s young team showed bags of character to come from behind against Palestine, who themselves defeated the hosts in front of a febrile home crowd on Wednesday night.
But it was comments from Palestine manager Ayman Sandouqa that threatened to overshadow Hong Kong’s performance.
“Again it’s a draw that feels like a defeat,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Hong Kong for not kicking the ball out while our player was down injured. That’s not very sporting at all,” added a clearly angered Sandouqa.
Lam Ka-wai was the hero for Hong Kong as he steered in a cross from the right to cancel out Mahmoud Yousef’s first-half goal.
— Paul Ryding (@pjrydo) August 17, 2018
Riding their luck at times after going behind to the talented Palestine side, who warmed to their task after a slow start, Hong Kong kept at it and forced Palestine to defend deep getting their reward on 57 minutes when Lam slotted home.
However, there was an element of controversy to the goal. As Hong Kong increased the tempo, there was a series of tough challenges. One such clash saw Yousef downed and in need of the physio, but with the referee waving play on, Kwok’s men worked the ball wide before the decisive cross was steered in.
“When the Palestine number 10 was injured,” Kwok said, “at that moment Palestine had the ball and they kept on playing. They played the ball forward and tried to attack – we intercepted and then they call for us to kick the ball away.”
“If it’s a foul, then it would have been given. If it’s not a foul, then we need to play on. This is what the players must do,” Kwok added.
Palestine snapped into action after the equaliser and pressed forward in search of a winner. With Hong Kong tiring, they resorted to long-range clearances, and it looked like only one side was going to snatch the win before Hong Kong grabbed what they thought was a priceless second goal, only for the effort to be chalked off for offside.
In the end a draw was just reward for Hong Kong’s efforts, and Kwok was pleased with his team’s performance.
“At half-time we all believed that we could score a goal,” Kwok said. “I’m happy with the boys’ performance and the fight they showed against the strongest team in the group.”
Kwok also revealed that Fernando Recio Comi was injured during the feisty encounter and will miss at least a week, ruling him out of the key clash with Indonesia on Monday night.