Khalsa-A took a firm step closer to grasping back the crown when they edged out defending champions Hong Kong Football Club-A in a definitive psychological 2-1 away victory on the weekend.
The win opened up a 3-point cushion—or one game—for Khalsa, who won their first Hong Kong Hockey Association Premier League title two seasons ago.
Like other clubs in the league, Khalsa have gone down the path of looking outside of Hong Kong by recruiting foreign talent. Splashing cash around paid off in the 2010-11 season and Khalsa are understood to have done so again—and on a bigger scale—to ensure that their Premiership crown was not a one-off fluke.
Harry Bal, Khalsa’s player/coach, was jubilant with the triumph over Club, but said that the win was only “one step closer” to their ensuring that they make their 2012-13 Premiership dream continue to come true.
“This is not over but just the beginning,” said Bal post-match.
“We still have three tough teams to play in consecutive games, but this win [over HKFA-A] will certainly help leave a lot of confidence for us,” Bal added, who opened Khalsa’s account an important equaliser with his strike from the top of the circle.
In consecutive weekends, Khalsa will take on Punjab, SSSC and Kowloon Cricket Club, in that order, with all matches slated for the 1,000 capacity-stadium at King’s Park.
But it was Sunday’s win over HKFC-A that was without doubt the stimulus Khalsa needed. Both sides had started the day unbeaten with the Sports Road hosts expecting to do well on home turf in front of a near full house in what was anticipated to be the game of the season so far.
Simon Chapman, HKFC coach was visibly disappointed with the result as they had somehow lost the plot, which included losing their Dutch striker Johannes Wolff to a mouth injury midway through the game.
Wolff, who nabbed HKFC’s lead with his sixth minute goal, then saw Khalsa storm back through Bal’s goal a minute later, only to see the Dutchman taken off with a nasty cut lip. According to Chapman it was akin to “two flapping pieces of skin” with blood spilling profusely from the open wound.
Chapman also described a period where his team let themselves down. Scores were tied at 1-all; Khalsa were reduced to 10 players when their talismanic striker, Egyptian Ahmed Ewis, was sent to the sin bin for a repeated intentional back-stick infringement. “We failed to capitalise on a numerical advantage when Ewis was sin binned,” Chapman said.
Ewis was then to make amends with umpire Tony Cheung instantly pointing to the penalty spot when he ruled that a HKFC defender had shoved a Khalsa player to the ground. The Egyptian did not give HKFC’s Goalkeeper, Cheng Hin-kei, any chance to block his shot as it was powerfully rifled to the back of the net, in what later turned out to be the winning goal.
Khalsa now lead the standings on 18-points from six games, while HKFC dropped down to second place with a game in hand. With a 9-point goal difference advantage over Club, Khalsa should remain narrowly on top once they have played the same number of games.
With the season a third of the way through, the championship race is far from over; however, Khalsa’s win gives the team the belief that they are more than just contenders.
While in the other men’s matches last weekend, on Sunday Nov 18 at Kings Park, all matches were a bit one-sided with Shaheen-A beating Elite 6-0, Punjuab-A overcoming Valley-A 4-1 and KCC-A lost to SSSC-A 1-5.
Two women’s matches were played last Saturday Nov 17, both at Kings Park.
Shaheen-A had a close battle with HKFC-B and the game remained goal-less until Shaheen-A forced a penalty corner with eight minutes of the match remaining to produce the first goal. HKFC-B came back through a penalty corner awarded right at the final whistle, when they sent all players up to attack and equalised the match at 1-1.
The KCC-A match against Recreio-A was rather one sided after an opening stabilising period with KCC-A scoring at regular intervals to set up a winning score of 8-0.
Eddie So is a photo journalist with over 20 years experience based in Hong Kong.
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