Eastern goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai insists he – and the rest of his teammates – have fully recovered from the record-breaking thrashing they received at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League last week and are hopeful of making amends in front of their home fans against Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night.
Hong Kong No.1 Yapp let in seven goals in what was surely one of the most traumatic games he has played in, although were it not for a string of fine saves he made the score could have been in double figures.
It was hard to judge just how far behind the rest of Asia Hong Kong’s champions are as they were reduced to 10 men in the opening minutes against big-spending Guangzhou and nine with an hour still to play.
That defeat was the heaviest-ever suffered by a team on their debut in the competition, and Chan Yuen-ting’s side are out to prove they belong at this level, the first time a Hong Kong side has ever made it to the group stage.
Realistically, their best hopes of any points in group G are in this and their next game, both at home.
“We were all suffering after the 7-0 loss but as a professional you have to quickly overcome these things and we have,” said captain Yapp, who saved a penalty in the game.
Guangzhou’s Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told his counterpart Chan she couldn’t take the hammering seriously as a measure of her or her team’s abilities given the circumstances, and Yapp concurred.
“We know that last game was very difficult with the two red cards – now it’s our home game in front of our own fans, we’re feeling confident again and we are determined to ensure tomorrow will be better,” he said.
“It’s a very difficult team, Japanese sides are very strong. We’ve watched their opening game in the ACL [a 1-1 draw at home to Suwon Bluewings of South Korea] and the team move very fast and play attractive football, so we know we have to be careful and play a conservative, defensive approach.”
Eastern’s fans were reportedly denied travel to Guangzhou because of “security concerns” according to mainland media, or an internal mix-up according to Eastern.
It’s doubtful whether their presence would have made much difference to the scoreline there, but Chan is hoping what should be a terrific atmosphere in a packed Mong Kong Stadium can help her team against Frontale.
“We’re more familiar with the stadium and the surroundings, and with the smaller-size pitch we can put them under more pressure in defence and have a better match than in Guangzhou,” said Chan, the first woman coach ever to lead a team in the competition.
Hong Kong’s nine-man Eastern thrashed 7-0 by China’s Guangzhou Evergrande in AFC Champions League
Chan’s team, who were back to winning ways in the local league at the weekend, play an expansive, attacking style in Hong Kong, but will again line up defensively against the Japanese.
Against Guangzhou, Chan started with a 5-4-1 formation, though her plans went out the window in the second minute with Wong Tsz-ho’s sending-off. She said she would pack the midfield in a 4-5-1 with three defensive midfielders against Frontale.
“The tempo of these matches in the ACL is very different and the players’ ability and speed is much higher than what we’re used to in the local league,” she admitted.
“In the local matches we’re more focused in attack so it is rather difficult to play in ACL because we have to change our patterns and habits.”
Frontale dropped points at home in their first ACL game, drawing 1-1 against Suwon Bluewings of South Korea, though they won their J League opener at the weekend.
Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting reflects on bitter lessons of 7-0 drubbing by Guangzhou Evergrande
They are missing playmaker Kengo Nakamura, which could be a boost for Eastern, though Japan international striker Yu Kobayashi, who scored against Suwon and again at the weekend, will fancy his chances.
“It’s going to be an away game so it’s not that easy but we want to get the three points,” said their coach Toru Oniki.