Hong Kong vs Singapore: Lions seek to end HK hoodoo
Hong Kong Form
- Cambodia 0-2 Hong Kong (Friendly)
- Hong Kong 4-2 Cambodia (Friendly)
- Myanmar 3-0 Hong Kong (Friendly)
- Vietnam 2-0 Hong Kong (Friendly)
- Qatar 2-0 Hong Kong (World Cup Qualifier)
- Singapore 0-0 Malaysia (Friendly)
- Bahrain 3-1 Singapore (Friendly)
- Cambodia 2-1 Singapore (Friendly)
- Vietnam 3-0 Singapore (AET) (Friendly)
- Myanmar 0-1 Singapore (Friendly)
A stiffer test than Malaysia.
But despite the Lions’ dominance, which saw them hit the crossbar three times and go close on a few more occasions, they were ultimately held to a 0-0 draw by one of the weakest Tigers side in recent memory.
Head coach V. Sundramoorthy insisted there were positives to take from that stalemate and he will hope that his charges can do better against Hong Kong, as he seeks only his second victory since taking charge.
They will meet the hosts for the first time in two years since a 2-1 defeat at the same venue they will play at again on Tuesday, where they will hope to get the better of an opponent ranked 13 places above them by FIFA at 142nd.
Kim Pan-gon’s charges are expected to present a much tougher test for Singapore than Malaysia did. They are a physically imposing team, with their style of football augmented by a remarkable 10 naturalised players – half of their outfield department.
Hong Kong used to be a stronger force before they sank to a low of 169th in the rankings in 2011, though they have been on a general rise since then and reached a high of 137th last year.
They come into this match on the back of two consecutive friendly wins over Cambodia - whom Singapore lost to in July - and will be relatively confident on home turf.
Hong Kong can also count on the strong backing of almost 6,800 home supporters as they seek to record a fourth consecutive home win against Singapore.
Both teams have no injury concerns and from the look of things, are unlikely to rotate their starting line-ups much.
Key Battle: Jaimes McKee vs Daniel Bennett
Naturalised citizen McKee has become a vital figure in the Hong Kong team since his first appearance for them back in 2011.
The Birmingham native took some time to get off the mark, scoring his first international goal in 2014 on his 15th cap, but has since added eight more in his subsequent 17 appearances.
McKee is a livewire in the box with his intelligent movement and sharp finishing, having accounted for four of Hong Kong’s last eight goals with three strikes and one assist.
The Eastern Long Lions striker links up well with fellow attacker Sandro and a tight leash will have to be kept on him, with the task likely to fall to Daniel Bennett.
At 37, the Geylang International man is enjoying a renaissance in the Singapore side and has been one of the standout players in recent games.
His reading of the game remains top notch, while his assured style brings a sense of calm to the back-line. The experience from 127 international caps will come in handy too.
Against a fellow English-born player eight years his junior, how Bennett performs could well be a key factor in the result here.
Kim is in his second spell in charge of the Hong Kong team, having taken over in 2012 after an initial stint from 2009 to 2010.
The South Korean is likely to use this match as a final tune-up ahead of the 2017 EAFF East Asian Cup qualifiers, which begins with an opener against Guam early next month.
He has never lost against Singapore, recording two wins and one draw in three friendly meetings and should field his best eleven in a bid to keep that streak going.
Opposite number Sundramoorthy highlighted after the Malaysia game that he was aware of the “big boys” that Hong Kong possess, but gave little else away.
The 51-year-old is likely to stick with more or less the same side but might want them to play on the ground a bit more instead of going direct too often, having mentioned that they lost the ball a little too easily against Malaysia.
Facts and Figures
Last Five Meetings
- Hong Kong 2-1 Singapore (Oct '14, Friendly)
- Singapore 0-0 Hong Kong (Sep '14, Friendly)
- Hong Kong 1-0 Singapore (Sep '13, Friendly)
- Singapore 2-0 Hong Kong (Aug '12, Friendly)
- Hong Kong 1-0 Singapore (Jun '12, Friendly)
- This will be the 10th consecutive friendly meeting between both teams. Both teams have three victories each from the previous nine games.
- Hong Kong have lost just once – against Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers – in their last seven games at Mong Kok, winning five of those.
- Naturalised players have scored seven of Hong Kong’s last eight goals and accounted for six assists of those.
- Of the 10 naturalised players in the current team, four are from Brazil, three from England, two from Nigeria and one from Ghana.
- The total number of caps in the Hong Kong team adds up to 426. Singapore’s most experienced quartet – Bennett, Baihakki Khaizan, Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri – have 490 caps between them.
- Singapore have not beaten Hong Kong in their last three games. Their last win was in August 2012; they went on to win the Suzuki Cup that year.
- The last time Singapore went five international fixtures without a win was in February 2012.
- Irfan Fandi will follow in the footsteps of his father, Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad, if he makes his debut in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong 0 Singapore 1. This looks like a difficult game to call but the Lions should be fired up to secure an away win here.