“Tough luck” was all Khalsa A player/coach Harry Bal kept repeating as he tried to summarise how his side could have lost to arch-rivals SSSC-A despite a bevy of penalty corner raids and attacks, only to concede a 1-0 result at King’s Park over the weekend.
The SSSC victory was made all that much sweeter as the win kept them in for a realistic crack at the Hong Kong Hockey Association Premier League title as they climbed to third on the standings, two points adrift of joint leaders Khalsa and Hong Kong Football Club-A, both on 21 points apiece.
All it took for SSSC to make their ambition come true was a solitary Satwinder Singh field goal when he turned his markers inside-out as he blasted in the winner from close range, with the clock barely 15 minutes old.
After that, Khalsa were forced to change the way they played, as they poured on the pressure, hoping to force their way back into the game through an equaliser, or more importantly, superior goals in a desperate bid to keep their league title hopes alive.
SSSC club convenor, Johnny Johal, was beaming with pride at having deflated Khalsa’s title ambition, but knows their job is far from over.
“This is our best chance for us to win the [league] title,” said Johal, who is eyeing their first title since the club joined the top flight.
Johal then added that their victory was no fluke, but was “well-deserved” after some hard work from both club and players in halting Khalsa’s Egyptian international and prolific goal-scorer Ahmed Ewis, despite some powerful strikes at goal from him.
“This win is more tactical, as we had discussed ways to hold them at bay, especially Ewis,” said Johal, adding that they also had to thank the brave antics of goalkeeper Gurpeet Singh – who had an outstanding game with some amazing blocks to stop their rivals in their tracks, adding to Khalsa’s frustrations.
Upon the final whistle, SSSC officials and fans then rushed onto the pitch to congratulate each other and then hoisted the goal-tender onto their shoulders as they tossed him into the air thanking him for his brave antics.
Khalsa player/coach Harry Bal was despondent after his side had a positive game despite not scoring.
“It’s just one of those days. It was tough luck and especially in the second half. We had our goal chances. We had at least 20, but we lost our structure. It was tough luck,” Bal said, adding that their opposite goalkeeper Gurpeet Singh was in top form to deny them.
Championship Race Widens
However, SSSC’s win also paved the way for other clubs to come in touch with the Premier crown; as defending champions HKFC-A tore apart Pakistan Association 3-1, while Punjab A remain in fourth place after beating HKFC-B 3-1.
The drop in points allowed HKFC-A to come firmly back into title contention. Their victory over Pakistan Association Club featured HKFC’s typically fast-paced and neat passing game, breaking Pakistan early.
First on the board was Club’s Rob Todd who scored from a close range simple tap-in after seven minutes off the opening whistle, but it took them another nine minutes for HKFC to extend their lead to 2-0, with some neat one-twos before Thom Moore finished off the move. Yan Adams scored HKFC-A’s third.
Pakistan were then given a consolation when their penalty corner strike from Ishtiaq Ahmed took a wicked deflection and, despite a brave leap from HKFC defender Jojo Wolff, was unable to turn the ball away from goal.
Pakistan skipper, Fero Pro was not disappointed with the defeat as he knew they had lost to a quality side in HKFC.
“This is a rebuilding year for us and we had three [Under-20s] youngsters playing in their first Premier game, so to lose by this score-line is not too bad,” Pro said.
Club captain, Owen Hughes was glad they had notched up another win as it kept them in contention—Khalsa dropping points, now sees them share the points and positions on top of the Premier League standings.
“This was a good win for us. Pakistan Association always gives us a tough game as they have some very talented players who often save their best for matches against Football Club,” said Hughes, whose side next takes on SSSC, who will be highly confident after their Khalsa win.
“We played very well today though and defended pretty well, and controlled the game for the most part. It sets us up nicely for another big game next weekend against SSSC, who are also playing very well,” Hughes said.
Eddie So is a photo journalist with over 20 years experience based in Hong Kong.
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