Hong Kong Stadium,Hong Kong
26th April 2015
Defending I League and Federation Cup champions Bengaluru FC travel to Hong Kong to take on South China in their round of 16 fixture of the 2015 AFC Cup. Bengaluru FC have already made the nation proud by advancing to the knockout stage in their debut continental appearance there by ensuring an Indian presence in the knockout round for the third straight year.
The going is likely to be much tougher now as their opponents in the round of 16 round is South China, who qualified to the next stage by winning all six of their group match. South China scored 16 goals in the first round, the highest by any team across the eight groups and start as favorites in the one legged round of 16.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Coached by Casemiro Mior, South China have qualified for the knockout stages by topping group G where they pumped in 19 goals and conceded just three goals. Unlike Bengaluru FC, South China are done with their domestic season where they finished third in the 2014/15 Hong Kong Premier League and are now focused on the AFC Cup 2015. Like their opponents South China are likely to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation.
Former Ecuadorian national team goalkeeper Mora Medrano will start under the post for the hosts and will look to keep the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Sean Rooney at bay. 35 year old Medrano played all four matches for the Ecuador national team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and will look to utilize his experience. Skipper Chan Wai Ho will led the four man back line and the 33 year old brings with an experience of having represented the Hong Kong national team 62 times. The six feet central defender also has six international goals to his credit. Chan is likely to be accompanied in the defense by Siberian defender Bojan MaliA?i who has played in the Ukrainian Premier League. Jack Sealy and Chak Ting Fung will occupy the right and the left back spots. The duo brings with it the experience of Hong Kong national team and will look to overlap and trouble the Bengaluru FC defense.
The midfield will be led by play-maker Leung Chun Pong who has represented the national team at both the U-23 and senior team level. Having played for China League One side Guangdong Sunray Cave, Leung will be the main source of creativity in the team. 22 year old Lo Kong Wai who scored thrice in the group stages will accompany Leung Chun Pong in the midfield and will look to support the strikers in attack. Another young midfielder Chan Siu Kwan will operate as a defensive midfielder and would be entrusted with the task of breaking up Bengaluru FC attacks.
Led by the all-time top scorer for the Hong Kong national football team, Chan Siu Ki, it is the final third where South China pack a punch. With 34 goals from 54 matches for the national team, Siu Ki is capable of playing with both feet and has been with South China since 2008 having scored more than 60 times for them. 38 year old Daniel McBreen has been in stellar form this season and already has scored six times in the group stages. McBreen has played in a host of nations from England to Australia and will look to trouble the duo of John Johnson and Curtis Osano with his experience. Cameroon striker Mahama Awal is likely to accompany Chan and McBreen in the three man attack and he would look to add to his tally of three goals he scored in the group stages.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Mora Medrano; Chak Ting Fung, Chan Wai Ho, Bojan MaliA?i , Jack Sealy; Chan Siu Kwan, Leung Chun Pong, Lo Kong Wai; Chan Siu Ki, Daniel McBreen, Mahama Awal
Bengaluru FC qualified for the knockout round winning four of their six group matches and though they lost both of their matches against group leaders Persipura Jayapura, Ashley Westwood and his team would fancy their chances against South China. The Garden City club come into the match on the back of. 1-1 draw with Dempo that left them two points off league leaders Mohun Bagan whom they face in the last match on 31st. It is unlikely that Westwood will play a five man defense as he did against Persipura as the round of 16 in a one legged affair and scoring goals will be the key.
22 year old goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte has had a stellar season for the defending champions having pulled of some stunning saves throughout the course of the season. Ralte was a major name missing form the preliminary World Cup squad released by Stephen Constantine and he would like to make a case with another impressive performance in the match. Though Ralte missed out, right back Rino Anto and left back Lalchhuan Mawia have earned callups to the squad following their impressive and consistent performances throughout the season and the duo are all set to occupy their positions in this match as well. Bengaluru FC utilize the flanks well and in this regard Anto and Mawia play an important role in the side both offensively and defensively. John Johnson and Curtis Osano will be have their biggest test in their two year stint as they will be up against a formidable South China attack featuring all time Hong Kong top scorer Chan Siu Ki and Aussie Daniel McBreen. The back four of Anto, Johnson, Osano and Mawia have played together in most of the matches and will have to be at their best to stop South China attack.
Bengaluru FC’ s go to man this season has been Eugeneson Lyngdoh and the 28 year old has been the heart and soul of Bengaluru FC’ s moves with his through balls and the free kicks. Against South China, Eugeneson will be entrusted with the task of linking up with the three strikers up front and creating scoring opportunities for them. His duel with Leung Chun Pong could very well decide the course of the game. Former U-21 England captain, Josh Walker will take his usual role of the defensive midfielder in the side; joining Osano and Johnson in the defense when Anto and Mawia surge ahead. With a game horned in England, Walker inject a much needed stability in the side and his role will be important against an attack minded South China side. Upcoming local lad Shankar Sampingiraj, who was handed the captain’ s arm band in Chhetri’ s absence in the match against Persipura, will take up the third slot alongside Eugeneson and Walker. The lanky midfielder has been one of the finds of the season and will be keen to continue his sting of impressive performances.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri has rediscovered his touch following a slow start to the I League which took him seven games to score his first I League goal of the season. Chhetri is likely to start on the left side of the attack where he has developed a good chemistry with left back Mawia. CK Vineeth, who has earned praise for his hardwork and industrious work rate is likely to start at the expense of Robin Singh. Westwood has preferred to use Vineeth as a center forward to trouble the opposition defenders with his pace and Tuesday should be no different. Despite not hitting the kind of form he showed last year, Sean Rooney is likely to be the third forward to start the match. Westwood has enough options upfront and the likes of Robin Singh and Udanta Singh could play a role later in the game.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Lalthuammawia Ralte; Lalchhuan Mawia, John Johnson, Curtis Osano, Rino Anto; Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Josh Walker, Shankar Sampingiraj; Sunil Chhetri, CK Vinneth, Sean Rooney
Chan Siu Ki (South China)
Measuring over 6 feet, Chan Siu Ki is one of the most celebrated players in South China’ s history and will no doubt hold the key to their fortunes in this key clash. He will be up against two of the best defenders in I League – Curtis Osano and John Johnson and their battle could well decide the course of the game. The top goal scorer for Hong Kong national team will be looking to add to his goals in this match.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh (Bengaluru FC)
Bengaluru’ s signing of Eugeneson Lyngdoh has undoubtedly been the best Indian signing in this season’ s transfer window and the new Mr. consistent of Indian Football has broken into the national team on bank of his impressive performances with Bengaluru. Playing as play-maker Eugeneson is not only the dead ball specialist in the team but is also the top scorer in the I League. Eugeneson will be gunning to leave a mark at the Asian level and his vision will once again make the difference in Bengaluru’ s attack against South China.
South China 2-1 Bengaluru FC
Bengaluru FC struggled against the pace of Persipura strikers in both the matches and they will be up against a strike force of similar quality when they face South China. South China will also have the home advantage in this one legged round of 16 and though Bengaluru FC will leave no stone un-turned in their quest for a win, TheHardTackle predicts a narrow win for the hosts in what is likely to be an entertaining match.