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Early Sunday blues as Hong Kong are knocked out by Sri Lanka in AHF Cup semis

Hong Kong got a case of the early Sunday blues as they failed to perform against Sri Lanka and were knocked out of the semi-finals of the 5th men’s Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Cup at King’s Park.

Forced to play their semi-final at 8am on Sunday morning after heavy rain forced Saturday’s evening game to be abandoned and rescheduled, Hong Kong struggled against the Sri Lankans, who pounced on the sleepy hosts to win 2-0 in front of almost empty stands.

But the hosts rebounded in the play-off for bronze later in the evening, defeating Singapore 2-1 with both Hong Kong goals coming from Felix Iu with Ishwarpal Grewal scoring for the Singaporeans.

Hours earlier, Hong Kong manager Eddie Leung Pak-kuen was not happy that the local squad had to play early in the morning against Sri Lanka, the pool B winners, and the fact that the local squad had to play two games in a space of eight hours.

“We were put at an unfair disadvantage but we have to respect the decision,” said Leung. “We were forced to play two games in eight hours which is not an ideal position to be in. The players were still in sleep mode when we played Sri Lanka this morning.

“It was a semi-final and we didn’t want to go all out as well because we wanted to leave something in the petrol tank for the final if we did managed to reach it. Now, we have to play for third place and the players would have to pick themselves up again,” he said.

Sri Lanka, who were given a slight advantage over Hong Kong as they appeared well rested staying in a nearby hotel, took a fourth minute lead through Damith Bandara. Hong Kong were unable to break the Sri Lanka defence and were punished again in the 66th minute when Sadaruwan Piyalanka extended the Sri Lankan’s lead in the 66th minute.

“We started off slow and we were sleep walking against Sri Lanka. We conceded an early goal and another goal in the second half towards the end when we were getting tired,” said Leung.

Hong Kong were fielding a predominantly Hong Kong Chinese squad and performed creditably to reach the semi-final after finishing runners-up in their pool, but Leung said the team are still on a learning curve.

“In our last pool match [pool A] against Taiwan, we were a bit nervous towards the end and Taiwan came back with a late equaliser [3-3]. If we had played more relaxed and more controlled against them, we would have won,” said Leung.

Bangladesh won the tournament, thrashing a tired Sri Lanka 3-0 in the final with goals from Jubair Hasan, Islam Ashraful and AHM Kamruzzaman.