Lionel Messi farce enrages Hong Kong, but there's a more important match on Wednesday, city's coach says

Lionel Messi farce enrages Hong Kong, but there's a more important match on Wednesday, city's coach says

The non-involvement of Lionel Messi (right, with his bodyguard) disappointed most of those present. (Photo: Sam Tsang)
The non-involvement of Lionel Messi (right, with his bodyguard) disappointed most of those present. (Photo: Sam Tsang)

Perhaps only one person involved in Sunday's exhibition match between a Hong Kong XI and Inter Miami was not measuring its success in degrees of Lionel Messi.

The supporters who filled Hong Kong Stadium created a tremendous prematch atmosphere before switching to disenchantment as it became clear that Messi, the man they had paid to see, would not be playing in a game that the visitors won 4-1.

But Jorn Andersen, the Hong Kong national team coach who took charge of Miami's opponents, had other yardsticks besides the Argentine World Cup winner's part in proceedings. One was how the city's players compared with counterparts from the United States, and another was their readiness for another challenge this week.

"From our side, I focus on nothing apart from my team," Andersen said. "We played against Inter Miami, and I have no comment about what happened in their team."

Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai, who played the opening 45 minutes, tentatively addressed the subject on everyone's minds, saying "not playing against Messi was disappointing". But he added: "It was a good opportunity to experience [Miami's] intensity, speed and physical strength, and we hope to improve."

Andersen was open last week about the game's positioning in his list of priorities, insisting a positive result in the second leg of the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup on Wednesday was "more important" than Sunday's outcome, while admitting that the public cared only about seeing Messi.

He had his finger much closer to the pulse than the American visitors, who chose not to tell spectators that Messi's hamstring injury would prevent him from making it on to the field.

Before emotions darkened, supporters watched a competitive first half. Andersen fielded five members of the Hong Kong squad from last month's Asian Cup, and five foreign players from the city's Premier League. He also selected 17-year-old Timothy Chow at right-back.

Everton Camargo did his bit to inject some South American sorcery, in the absence of Messi and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, embarking on dribbles and imaginatively trying to prise open a latterly leaky Miami defence.

Mikael Severo, one of Hong Kong's foreign contingent, smacked the bar from distance before the away side scored first when Robert Taylor curled into the top corner.

Estonian centre-forward Henri Anier, of Lee Man, swiped home a leveller soon after. But Andersen made 10 changes at the break, "to give all the players a chance against Inter Miami", and his team lost their way.

Lawson Sunderland and Leonardo Campana netted in minutes 50 and 57, and with five minutes remaining, Ryan Sailor's header completed the scoring.

"We had the players to train for only one day; Inter Miami are in preseason and training together every day," Andersen said.

"But we played a good game, especially in the first half. We were aggressive, and had a lot of energy. We attacked them, created chances … and 1-1 at half-time, against a strong team, was good.

"After the changes, we lost our formation and did not have the same energy and condition. But that does not matter, it was a show game, and for every player, it was a great experience.

"You could see, though, the international level is much higher and quicker, the players' condition and energy is much better. We hope Hong Kong can go to this level."

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (2)