Johnson, Grealish lead the way as Aston Villa set “out to win”


Hong Kong, 24 May 2014Daniel ‘DJ’ Johnson, the 2012 Player of the Tournament, scored four goals to help five-time winners Aston Villa record three straight 2-0 wins and top Group D at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, with their last win over Leicester City pushing the defending champions into the Plate.

HKFA U-21 earlier shocked Leicester 1-0 with a goal from Lee Ka-ho, then secured second spot and a place in the Cup quarter-finals after Villa beat Leicester with goals by 18-year-old star Jack Grealish and Joshua Webb. Johnson, 21, scored all four goals in Villa’s victories over HKFA U-21 and Yau Yee League Select.

Hong Kong champions Kitchee, the 2011 champions, topped Group B after a scoreless draw against Sunderland was followed by 1-0 wins over Chelsea and HKFC Captain’s Select. Sunderland finished second after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the last group match, leaving Chelsea joining Leicester in the Plate.

Manchester City and Rangers progressed from Group C after a 1-1 draw in their final match meant the two British clubs edged Hong Kong First Division side BC Rangers on goal difference, all three teams finishing on five points. Newcastle and HKFA U-23 progressed from Group A to complete the quarter-final line-up.

Aston Villa U-18 coach Ben Petty was delighted with his side’s opening day and said Johnson and other players requested to return to Hong Kong in a concerted bid to win back the trophy they’ve won five times.

“We’re delighted. I asked the boys for three solid performances and that’s what we got. We haven’t conceded a goal, we’ve looked good at the back, and Daniel and Jack are starting to hit a little bit of form, so we’re pleased,” Petty said.

“Danny wanted to come back here. The boys think very highly of the competition and when the squad was being considered, Danny and one or two of the older boys asked if they could be considered. We’re delighted to bring him. Janoi Donacien and Josh Webb are all in the Under-21s now and they’ve also come back.”

Petty admitted the side is determined to break their trophy ‘drought’ and that the upcoming retirement of Bryan Jones, the club’s Academy Manager, makes this year’s campaign a special one.

“It has been too long since we won. As a club, we want to start winning things and whether that’s at youth level, U-21 level, we want to put trophies on the table, so we’re out to win this,” said Petty, who is coaching in his fourth straight Soccer Sevens.

“We’d like to win it for Bryan as he’s bowing out after 20 years of service. He’s been amazing for the Academy. We all spoke before the tournament and we said he’s done a lot for all of us, including the staff, so it would be a nice way for him to bow out.”

Hong Kong national coach Kim Pan-gon was delighted with how his U-21 charges held on for a momentous victory over Leicester, whose squad includes 2013 Player of the Tournament Harry Panayiotou.

“Actually in Hong Kong our weak point is mentality, but today we improved our mentality and fighting spirit. Our players really wanted to get into the Cup, so it was great to beat a top team from England,” said Kim, who’s overseeing both the HKFA U-23 and U-21 sides at the tournament.

“The boys are just 18 or 19, so this is a good opportunity for them to learn something and to get more experience. They did well.”

Spanish striker Jordi Tarres scored in the second half as Kitchee secured a famous win over Chelsea, one of the pre-tournament favourites after bringing many players from their U21 Premier League winning squad.

“We were pleased with the win over Chelsea,” said Kitchee captain Lo Kwan-yee. “They are young, so we thought we had a 50/50 chance. In the first half, we got to know their style of play, then in the second half we tried some different movements to pinpoint their weaknesses. We’ve had a good season, so we’re trying to enjoy the tournament and hope the fans enjoy how we play.”

Jason Wilcox’s Manchester City lived up to their promise of attacking football. The young side crushed Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) 4-0 and were two up against BC Rangers, before the local club made it 2-2 with the last kick of the match.

French striker Thierry Ambrose scored three goals, England U-18 winger Brandon Barker netted twice, while captain James Horsfield and Spanish left-back Jose Angel Tasende (‘Angelino’) also scored.

Wilcox, 42, said his U-18s would need to maintain concentration if they’re to progress further in the competition.

“We got off to a great start, but then slipped into a little bit of complacency in the second game, especially going two up. In this competition, if you switch off for a minute, you can concede a goal, so it’s a real learning curve for the lads,” said the former England winger, who won the Premier League with Blackburn.

“We went into the last game needing at least a draw, so I was really pleased with how they performed. We showed courage and character to get back into it after going a goal down. We’re playing in a different climate, extremely difficult, so I’m really pleased,” added Wilcox, before paying tribute to his forward.

“Thierry’s very exciting, very powerful, so he’s got a bright future.”

In the Masters, Rangers Legends lost 3-1 to a United Services Recreation Club side boosted by five Brazilian guest stars. However, the defending champions bounced back to beat Wallsend Boys Club 3-2 and finish second behind USRC in Group A.

Michael Bridges will play no further part in the tournament after the former Leeds and Sunderland striker suffered a broken arm, having already scored his second goal of the tournament in Wallsend’s 3-1 win over Kowloon Cricket Club.

Aegon Ajax All Stars, the 2012 champions, beat 2011 champions Eastern Salon Original 1-0 for a third straight victory in Group B, as both sides moved into the quarter-finals from Group B.

Nottingham Forest Mobsters and Citibank All Stars both remained undefeated in Group C, the teams drawing 1-1 in their last match. Carlton Palmer earlier earned Citibank All Stars a crucial 1-0 win over 2010 champions KFC Tokyo.

Sunday matches kick off at 8.00am with day tickets available at the stadium entrance for HK$160. Citibank has title sponsored the event since 2011 and other sponsors this year include British Airways, Nike, Aegon, The Excelsior, Tsingtao and Boase Cohen & Collins.