I don’t think my nerves will stand too many nights like last night! But what a performance. I was so pleased for Coach KIM and his team of coaches and players. The match statistics show that it was a pretty one-sided match (as you would expect against a team ranked 73 places higher) but our team worked so hard to maintain parity. Yes, we rode our luck at times, especially in the first half when the woodwork came to our help four times. Having said that we defended with courage and discipline and we kept a very organized shape throughout. There were some fantastic goal line clearances and our goalkeeper made some outstanding, I would say, world class saves.
China will be frustrated and disappointed not to have won but that’s the beauty of football; you have to put the ball in the back of the net. They had 90 minutes to do so and they failed to score. They were off target on many occasions and towards the end were reduced to shooting from long range. Initially it looked like they were a bit complacent thinking that they could score at will. As the game wore on I was surprised that they were so one-dimensional. Even though they made a number of substitutions they didn’t vary their shape or system and the transition from defense to attack was very pedestrian. This made it a bit easier for our team to defend. With about 20 minutes to go, I actually started to relax a bit because I didn’t think China could score.
In some ways I think last night’s performance was arguably as positive as Hong Kong’s victory against China in 1985. No disrespect meant to that outstanding team but China takes football much more seriously these days. Some of their players are paid more individually than our entire squad put together!
I would also like to pay tribute to the Hong Kong fans. They battled hard to simply buy tickets and get to the match! As ever their support was phenomenal and their behaviour was exemplary. I hope they remember the night for a long long time. Last night I was as proud of the fans as I was of the team.
I look forward now to the return leg to be played here in Hong Kong on 17th November. We still don’t know where the match will be played but in my opinion it would be a travesty if it was played anywhere other than the HK Stadium. This is one of the biggest and most important football matches to be played in Hong Kong and only our main stadium will do it justice. As many people as possible should be given the opportunity to watch the match and to support the team.
I will finish with once again paying tribute to our fans and the Hong Kong team. It was an inspired brilliant performance. However, we must be realistic and keep our feet on the ground. In a few days we play against Qatar and they beat Bhutan 15-0 last night. It is sure to be another nerve jangling experience!