Hong Kong Premier League champions Eastern have qualified for the quarter-finals of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens at the first time of asking after recording impressive victories over New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix and English Premier League side Stoke City.
Chan Yuen-ting’s side opened the Main Tournament on Saturday morning with a 2-1 win over Stoke in Group B, before wrapping up their passage to the last eight with a game to spare after a 1-0 defeat of Wellington.
“We did quite well, especially in the first two games,” said Chan, whose team went down 2-1 to Yau Yee League Select in their final group game to lose out on top spot to last year’s semi-finalists Wellington.
A hat-trick from Hamish Watson saw Wellington get off to the perfect start with a 3-0 scoreline over Yau Yee League Select, before the loss to Eastern left them facing a winner-takes-all clash with Stoke.
In a hotly contested encounter, Dylan Fox’s solitary strike ensured it was the New Zealanders who advanced to the next phase, while Stoke were forced to settle for a place in the Plate competition.
“It’s been about four years since I scored with my foot so I’ll take it,” said defender Fox. “There’s always a chance [of winning the tournament]; we’re a good team and if we work together I’m sure we can.”
In Group C, meanwhile, FC Seoul’s Yang Yu-min scored all four of his team’s goals as the South Koreans posted three wins on the bounce to progress to the quarter-finals in convincing style. They were joined by Japan’s Kashima Antlers, who edged out HKFC Captain’s Select on goal difference to advance to the last eight.
Seoul began Saturday with a 1-0 win over Thai Youth Football Home and then clinched a place in the knockout phase by seeing off HKFC Captain’s Select 2-0, before a 1-0 victory against Kashima claimed top spot in Group C.
“Everybody is in very good condition so now I think we can win this tournament,” said the competition’s top scorer Yang.
The big story in the Masters Tournament at the midway stage on Saturday is Ajax have failed to make the quarter-finals for the first time.
After claiming four points from two Group A games on Friday, the Dutch giants drew against 1-1 with HKFC Chairman’s Select before going down 3-1 to defending champions USRC in their final group game in which star striker Fabio Alcantara scored a world-class goal from inside his own half.
USRC advance to the last eight on top of the standings after three wins from four and are joined by HKFC Chairman’s Select, who remain unbeaten. Kowloon Cricket Club Veterans finished third in the group and progress to the Plate competition while Ajax and Discovery Bay miss out.
“It was a tough game against Ajax, but now we’re looking forward to trying to defend our title,” said USRC midfielder Daniel Lins Cortes. “Yesterday we were a little slow, but now we’re in shape and doing well.”