Leicester City’s youngsters completed a great end to their season by winning the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens Cup Final against Newcastle 2-0 on Sunday May 26. While it wasn’t all smooth sailing, the Foxes saw off three highly fancied teams in the finals stage to lift the prestigious trophy.
Touted by its organisers as “the world’s best 7-a-side tournament”, the 3-day Soccer Sevens, which started in 1999, features a main open age competition comprising 16 teams divided into four groups, and a masters 35 and over competition.
Teams from illustrious British and Scottish clubs again participated in this annual event, bringing top young talent and famous football names to Hong Kong. Teams from the famous clubs that included Newcastle United, Sunderland, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Glasgow Rangers joined the main competition showcasing their Under-21 and Under-18 talent.
The young Leicester City Foxes have had a good 2012/13 season winning the Development League Two North title. Going on to win this prestigious international event is an extra bonus.
At the completion of the group stage that determines the teams that will progress to the knock-out finals, the Foxes were equal second in Group B with Southern, but ahead on goal difference. Having lost to Newcastle United (0-2), but beating Southern 2-0 and drawing with Captain’s Select 1-all, they had scraped through to the finals by the narrowest of margins.
But they had learned a lot about themselves and their opponents in the process and were now a more settled team.
Leicester City won an exciting high scoring Quarter Final match against Aston Villa 4-3 after going ahead with goals from Jak McCourt and two from Harry Panayiotou, before Villa hit back to equalise. The Foxes won the ensuing “golden goal” phase in extra time through Academy Player of the Season Michael Cain.
The Foxes went on to secure a place in the Final by beating Sunderland 1-0.
Leicester City got off to a quick start in the Cup Final against defending champions Newcastle, with goals from Cain and Panayiotou. From this point, the Foxes were in command and, although Newcastle had their chances, they were unable to hit back.
Captain Alie Sesay hailed his team-mates after the famous victory reported hksoccersevens.com.
“The average age of our team was about 18.4 years, so we were one of the youngest teams here,” said Sesay.
“Not only that, we were up against some big hitters like Manchester City and Aston Villa, which made us the underdogs, but we’ve proved ourselves,” added the 19-year-old.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Premier League or not.”
Although last year Leicester City were knocked out of the Cup by Aston Villa at the Quarter Final stage—they proceeded to win the Shield Final by beating Chelsea 3-2 after extra time—they went one better this year.
Leicester City Coach, Jon Rudkin was delighted to win the tournament according to the organisers’ report.
“We had the experience of playing in last year’s tournament and I think we also benefited from the freshness of the new players we brought this time,” Rudkin said. “There are some excellent teams here so we’re delighted to be winning a tournament of this standard,” he added.
“We learned from our 2-0 loss to Newcastle in the group stage.
“We were aware Newcastle had some excellent players and they’ve been tremendous in this tournament, not just this year, but last year as well. But we knew the Final was a one-off game so we just had to dig in and give it a go,” Rudkin explained.
Although Newcastle had opportunities, Leicester City, after going two goals up, controlled the second half with relative ease.
Taking the top trophy was obviously an outstanding result made all the more sweeter by defeating the defending champions.
Plate and Shield Final
The Plate Final was won by BC Rangers who overcame KCC by 1-0 in the final minutes of the game.
The most exciting final was the Shield match between Manchester City and Aston Villa who put on an adrenalin filled match of speed, great skill in both attacking and defending, with Aston Villa, the 2011 Champions, winning 2-1.
The Masters competition featured 12 teams in three groups. Teams such as the Singapore Cricket Club, KFC Tokyo, Chairman’s Select, KCC, USRC battled for supremacy with the Aegon Ajax All Stars, Rangers All Stars and CLA Discovery Bay—a star-studded side boasting such names as Teddy Sheringham, David Howells (ex Tottenham Hotspurs) and Peter Beardsley. But Beardsley told The Epoch Times that they did not play very well and two of the top flight players did not turn up for the matches.
In the Masters Cup Semi-finals, Aegon Ajax All Stars scraped a narrow victory over HKFC Veterans; while Rangers All Stars beat Eastern Salon Top Class rather more easily with a 4-1 score.
Rangers just got the edge on Ajax in the Masters Cup Final, winning this event 2-1.
The Group Stage for the Main and Masters competitions were played on Friday evening May 24 and Saturday May 25. Knock-out matches were played on Sunday May 26, culminating in Cup Finals for both competition categories.
Capping off Leicester City’s Main competition victory, their 18-year-old forward Harry Panayiotou won the Player of the Tournament award.