Hong Kong beat Bhutan on aggregate to enter World Cup Qualifiers Round 2
Bhutan beat Hong Kong 2-0 in the second-leg
Hong Kong, China survived a huge scare to book their ticket to the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 after a 2-0 defeat to Bhutan on Tuesday saw them advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Having suffered a heavy 4-0 away loss in the first leg of Round 1 last Thursday, Bhutan took the lead just before the half hour of the return meeting at Changlimithang Stadium through captain Chencho Gyeltshen before Lobzang Chogyal made it two early in the second half.
But a third goal was not forthcoming as Hong Kong held out to progress to Round 2, where they will join Islamic Republic of Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in a tricky looking Group E.
After an even opening 15 minutes in which Bhutan sought an early goal to give themselves a glimmer of hope of an unlikely comeback, Hong Kong took control of the game and Matt Orr fizzed wide from 20 yards in the 16th minute.
But it was the hosts who then opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Bhutan’s star man Gyeltshen stole in ahead of defender Li Ngai Hoi to head home Sherub Dorji’s pinpoint cross from the left.
Hong Kong came forward again and had another shot from distance, this time Shinichi Chan forcing goalkeeper Hari Gurung to parry to safety, before Lobzang’s speculative effort from way out down the other end flew narrowly wide.
Orr was just inches away from levelling the score on the stroke of half-time when his free-kick from the edge of the area went just over as Bhutan took a slender lead into the interval.
Incredibly, Bhutan doubled their advantage in the 47th minute when Lobzang received a short pass from Nima Wangdi and rocketed the ball past goalkeeper Tse Ka Wing into the back of the net from 25 yards out.
Substitute Tsenda Dorji was next to have an effort on goal when the ball broke kindly to him in the box in the 65th minute but he shot directly at the Hong Kong custodian as Bhutan kept the pressure on their shell-shocked visitors.
Tshelthrom Namgyel’s powerful attempt forced Tse into another save at his near post as the game entered its final 20 minutes and a nervous Hong Kong struggled to keep their hosts at bay.
Bhutan continued to attack but were unable to force a frantic finish as Hong Kong held out to advance.
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