Hosts HKFC Masters made the perfect start to the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens with wins over former finalists USRC and defending champions Citi All Stars in Group A on Friday at Hong Kong Football Club.
The hosts began with a 1-0 victory over 2016 runners-up USRC before returning to secure a hugely impressive win by the same margin against Citi All Stars to leave themselves in a strong position ahead of the two remaining group games on Saturday.
In Group B, tournament regulars Wallsend Boys Club opened with a resounding 5-1 victory over HKFC Chairman’s Select.
Wallsend looked set to also end the day on six points, but former Cagliari Calcio forward Daniele Conti equalised for KCC Veterans in the final game of the night as the tie ended in a 1-1 draw.
“I think we were a bit sloppy. They played a good game and made it difficult for us, but I think we gave the game away,” said Wallsend forward Daniel McBreen, whose side are above Yau Yee League Masters on goal difference at the top of Group B.
“We’re still confident. We’ll just go out there and do what we can do and enjoy ourselves along the way.”
Much of the talk before the tournament started was of the return of holders Citi All Stars and the debut of a star-studded playonPROS team, both of whom featured a host of former players from England’s Premier League.
Citi All Stars started strongly as former Norwich City forward Jamie Cureton opened the scoring against Discovery Bay, before former Portugal international Luis Boa Morte coolly rounded the goalkeeper to seal a 2-0 win.
But the defending champions were unexpectedly beaten in their second game when HKFC Masters produced one of the performances of the night to leave the defending champions with much to do ahead of their remaining two group games on Saturday.
The holders, Discovery Bay and SCC Tigers sit three points behind the group leaders, with USRC yet to pick up a point.
“It was tough out there and we’re all tired,” said Citi All Stars’ former Glasgow Rangers defender Marvin Andrews. “But we’ll get better and we’ll lift the title again this year.”
Making their first appearance at a tournament, playonPROS started sluggishly as the Yau Yee League Masters caught them off guard to claim a 1-0 victory.
But the side featuring former England internationals Emile Heskey, David James and Des Walker, as well as ex-Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre and one-time Blackburn Rovers captain Colin Hendry hit back strongly with a 1-0 victory over HKFC Chairman’s Select to leave the side just a point off the top of the Group B standings.
“The second game went better than the first one,” said Heskey after scoring the winner against HKFC Chairman’s Select. “It was tough, it takes some getting used to with the weather and how to play on this pitch with just seven players.
“But we got to grips with it and I thought we did OK. We need to take our chances when we get them. In the first game we hit the woodwork twice, so I think we can score more goals.”
Yau Yee League Masters, meanwhile, won one and drew one to end the day level on points with Wallsend at the top of the table.
PlayonPROS sit a point adrift of the leaders and one ahead of KCC Veterans with HKFC Chairman’s Select propping up the standings having yet to get off the mark.