Hong Kong—Sri Lanka having less than two hours to recover from their semi-final 2-1 win over Hong Kong crashed to a 3-0 loss to defending champions Bangladesh in the AHF Cup even though they played the game of their lives in the final at King’s Park on Sunday Nov 27.
Even Bangladesh coach Oliver Kurtz felt for his opponents and said they had produced a good game but should have protested to the tournament officials as they had to play two games in a day without enough time to recover whereas Bangladesh had a full day to rest.
“Before the finals’ my players had already warned me that Sri Lanka would be a hard team to play and sure enough they did well despite the situation,” Kurtz, a 92’Olympic Gold recipient medalist said. “Was I the coach of Hong Kong or Sri Lanka, I would have protested.”
As to the game itself, all the action saw Sri Lanka in attacking mode from the start of their bid, not allowing Bangladesh any leeway to mount a stranglehold and their opponents were left pondering on how best to weave through their rivals, well marshaled by their goal-tender Asini Gropi.
Eventually, the pressure fell in on the Sri Lankan’s as the fatigue factor began to unravel with Hasam Jubain slamming home a sneaky yet powerful dribbling goal from the inside right of the goal in the 22nd minute to enter the break 1-0 up.
Sri Lanka not undeterred kept the pressure on but their game plan fell apart within the last 10 minutes of play with Bangladesh’s AshnafuI Islan and A.H.M. Karuzzam scoring in the 61st and 67th minutes respectively, both from penalty corners ending Sri Lanka’s adventure, much to the Bangladesh fans jubilation and earning Bangladesh a triple.
Sri Lanka coach Herath Bandara was full of praise of his players and did not put blame on them and accepted the defeat.
“Our players played well under the circumstances but that is how the game is played,” he said.
The only consolation is their second placing allows them straight entry into the Asia Cup and that they may have a chance to face Bangladesh on their home turf and exact revenge.
“For some of my players this was a good learning curve and now we know what is needed and we have time to recover and train harder to get a good result,” he said, as some of his players left in tears after their grueling 140 minute marathon.
Sporting fans should feel for Sri Lanka as they did fight a courageous battle taking to take on Bangladesh at such a short time interval.
Hong Kong, despite playing back to back games, found the energy to fight off Singapore to win the 3rd place play-off 2-1 Felix Un scored the winner to earn Hong Kong the bronze medal.
Hong Kong coach Mark Kaka said the team had learnt valuable lessons from this tournament and hope to use it when the SAR takes part in next year’s All China (National) Games in Tianjin.
Eddie So is a seasoned sports journalist and photographer and has worked for a number of media companies in Hong Kong over a period of more than 20 years.