Stage set for HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens knockout phase after heavyweights progress

West Ham United vs Leicester City during the Main of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens on 21 May 2016 in the Hong Kong Footbal Club, Hong Kong, China. Photo by Li Man Yuen / Power Sport Images

West Ham United vs Leicester City during the Main of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens on 21 May 2016 in the Hong Kong Footbal Club, Hong Kong, China. Photo by Li Man Yuen / Power Sport Images

Five-time champions Aston Villa set up a HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens quarter-final with Japan’s Kashima Antlers after recording three successive wins on Saturday.

Aston Villa, the tournament’s most decorated side having also appeared in the final on a further two occasions, claimed victories over Kitchee, Hong Kong Football Club and Newcastle United to top Group A without conceding a goal.

And Aston Villa will face J.League side Kashima looking to avoid another quarter-final defeat and claim a first title defeating Scotland’s Rangers 3-2 in the 2010 final

“The win [against Newcastle] has given us good confidence going into tomorrow’s game because they’re probably the strongest team in the group,” said Corey Blackett-Taylor, who scored the only goal of the game in the group decider against Newcastle.

Peter Beardsley’s Newcastle will also face East Asian opposition in the last eight on Sunday in the form of Group C winners FC Seoul, who also boast a 100% record and have yet to concede, and have the tournament’s top scorer Yang Yu-min within their ranks.

Last year’s runner-up West Ham United stepped up their form late in the day on Saturday by overcoming Leicester City 2-0 in their final Group D fixture to move above their opponents to the top of the standings.

After drawing their opening two matches, West Ham produced their best performance of the tournament in defeating 2013 winners Leicester to set up a quarter-final tie with Hong Kong champions Eastern.

“It was brilliant to get that last win against Leicester,” said midfielder Alex Pike, who scored the first goal in the win over the English Premier League winners. “

“Everyone dug in and gave 100% and now we can’t wait for tomorrow – hopefully we can go further in the competition.”

Eastern got off to a flying start on Saturday morning by defeating both Stoke City and New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix in Group B, before losing out on top spot to Wellington after being beaten by Yau Yee League Select.

‘We did quite well in the first two games especially,” said Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting.

“We’re keeping the ball well and creating chances. I’m really satisfied with the performance of my players.”

After winning a hotly contested match 1-0 over Stoke to eliminate the English Premier League side, Wellington will now face newly crowned Leicester in the last eight.

“There’s always a chance [of winning the tournament], we’re a good team and if we work together I’m sure we can,” said defender Dylan Fox, who scored the only goal of the game against Stoke.

Meanwhile, in the Masters Tournament, Citi All Stars, holders USRC, Wallsend Boys Club and Hong Kong Football Club Chairman’s Select all booked their passage to the semi-finals.

Citi All Stars were in fine form on Saturday afternoon after posting wins over Hong Kong Football Club Veterans and Wallsend Boys Club to finish on top of Group B and book a semi-final date with Group A runners-up Hong Kong Football Club Chairman’s Select.

“We started playing more offensively after losing our first game and it’s worked,” said Citi captain Frank Sinclair.

“We’ve got a strong squad, but the names on the paper don’t count for anything if you don’t produce a performance. We’ll take tomorrow very seriously.”

Defending champions USRC and Wallsend will face off in a rerun of last year’s final after USRC defeated two-time winners Ajax All Stars 3-1 to eliminate the two-time winners and, in turn, leapfrog Hong Kong Football Club Chairman’s Select into top spot.

“It was a tough game against Ajax, but now we’re looking forward to trying to defend our title,” said USRC midfielder Daniel Lins Cortes.

“Yesterday we were a little slow, but now we’re in shape and doing well.”