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Hong Kong’s Coming Of Age (27/07/2011)

3rd Men’s Junior AHF Cup

Hong Kong’s Coming Of Age

Hong Kong, China vs Sri Lanka

Half-time: 0-0

Full-time: 0-1

By Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

Hong Kong showed they can be a force to reckon with when they completed their final Pool match on the receiving end of a 1-0 defeat to Sri Lanka at King’s Park.

Holding out for a draw or any positive result to erase the memory of their nightmarish journey as host in the AHF Men’s Junior Cup, they proved there was some hope for the future of the sport in Hong Kong.

Guv Dillon, the Hong Kong coach sighed with relief upon the final whistle as he held his face in his hands not believing the scoreboard holding up the single digit display.

“The boys tonight had a great game!” said Dillon, still shaking his head in disbelief at not finishing their match without conceding more than one goal.

“The boys stood up to the task given them,” he said.

“Hopefully this will be a good start and this becomes a team for the future of Hong Kong and we can look forward to being at the next Asian Games,” he said.

He hoped that with the current side, the survivors of the U21 Tournament, incorporated with a sprinkle of older players, Hong Kong will again rise to be a regional hockey force that has seen them become East Asian Games bronze medalist.

“Finally, the boys have shown the parents and all those who did not believe in us that we have a lot of potential,” he said.

Sri Lanka coach Leelananda Ittapana had stunned him and his side with their defensive attitude going into the encounter.

“We never anticipated this,” said Ittapana. “We wholly expected it would be an easy win,” he said, after watching Hong Kong fall to the swords of Chinese Taipei, 7-1 and Iran 3-1 and expecting a similar lop-sided result.

“Hong Kong spread a (defensive) blanket over us,” he said. “They were fully defending and were prepared to play a counter-attacking side.”

“They had four penalty corners but were unable to put them away, had they did we would have been on the receiving end of defeat, not them,” he said.

He felt had Hong Kong played the way they did against them from the onset, by the time the two sides met, it would have been Sri Lanka shaking in their boots.

“They would have given us a good run had they played this way from the start of the tournament,” he said.

“Overall, it was a good match,” he said.

Hong Kong’s defensive stance become more apparent when you realize the host side conceded their only goal of the game in the early stages of the second-half to a 43rd minute Pushpa Kumara Hendeniya penalty corner.

With local fans shouting out their jubilations to finally seeing Hong Kong playing in a constructive pattern, they applauded and mouthed out words of encouragements to push the SAR squad into creating goals.

On the final whistle, Hong Kong Hockey Association president Sarinder Dillon and vice-president, Billy Dillon along with Hong Kong Hockey Association Men’s Section Richard Mak walked over to the Hong Kong bench to congratulate the players on their performance, shaking every player’s hand and thanking them at the same time for their hard work against Sri Lanka.

Hong Kong now move forward to the play-off stage and will hope they repeat their fighting effort and try not to finish off in last place.