Hong Kong slump to Iran 2-0 at home

HONG KONG: Hong Kong fans booed their own national anthem and sang in protest against Beijing’s rule as months of political unrest spilled onto the football pitch in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Iran on Tuesday.
Ear-splitting booing all but drowned out “March of the Volunteers”, the anthem the semi-autonomous territory shares with mainland China, at what was Hong Kong’s first home game after a summer of upheaval.
“I think football is the most peaceful way to express our demands,” Christopher Chung, a 22-year-old fan, said.
“When you have a sense of belonging to a place, you will watch a football match there. So when I see so many people come here for the match, I feel really happy.”
Booing the national anthem has become common at Hong Kong’s home games, but the protest among the crowd of 15,000 was given added impetus by the pro-democracy demonstrations. It failed to galvanise the hosts, however, as goals from Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard gave heavyweights Iran victory in their first competitive game under ex-Belgium boss Marc Wilmots.
Azmoun had a bullet header saved and fired a shot just wide before he opened the scoring on 23 minutes, rifling a half-volley into the bottom corner as he again found himself unmarked in the box.
The Zenit St Petersburg striker then fed Ansarifard for an acrobatic overhead that cannoned off the crossbar, before Brighton midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh came close when he curled a free kick wide on the stroke of half-time.
Hong Kong occasionally threatened on the break but the game was beyond them when Ansarifard knocked in Iran’s second goal nine minutes after the break, cashing in on Jahanbakhsh’s strong run down the right.
Earlier, the Philippines brushed aside Pacific islanders Guam 4-1 for their first win of the qualifiers, Tajikistan beat Mongolia 1-0 and Singapore were 2-1 winners over Palestine.
Among Wednesday’s later qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Marcello Lippi’s China play Maldives, Australia face Kuwait and South Korea play Turkmenistan. — AFP