St Wilfrid Sports Complex(24 October 2010) - The first weekend of the inaugural League Of Champions was successfully completed as the 12 top teams from 9 amateur leagues contested for a spot in the grand finals: a 90 minutes encounter at the Jalan Besar Stadium on the 30th of October.
With each group stage fixture set for a short period of two halves of 18 minutes, football fans in the St Wilfried Sports Complex were expecting a series of goalless draws to sum up a dull opening day in the Qualifiers. Nevertheless, they were left dumbfounded after watching the teams net a total of 22 goals in 12 games with just 2 goalless stalemates.
The highlights on the second day of the LOC proved to be equally impressive as we attested to several enthralling matches between teams that qualified from the group stages.
Here're the highlights of the tournament:
The League of Champions kicked off in bizarre fashion as title favorites SCC NFL were on the receiving end of a shocking 1-0 defeat by Racing FC from ESPZEN. Despite dominating possession for much of the game, SCC NFL failed to find then back of the net. Racing FC finally made their opponents pay as talismanic midfielder Jamie Townsend slotted home a nerveless effort to give the ESPZEN champions a positive start to their Group Stage.
Fake Madrid FC from the SAFRA League were handed a stern test in their opening fixture against a SCC NFL side who was seeking redemption from their earlier defeat. Astonishingly, the reigning NFL Champions struggled to keep pace with a resilient Fake Madrid in the first half. Eventually, SCC NFL breathed a huge sigh of relief when striker John Yeong finished emphatically with a towering header from a teasing Phillipe Aw cross on the right wing to secure a 1-0 win.
The final encounter between Racing FC and Fake Madrid proved to be another end-to-end affair as both teams went on the offensive. Fake Madrid were left bemoaning their woeful finishing after missing two sitters in a goalless draw and were knocked out of the LOC.
Racing FC topped Group A while SCC NFL qualified as runners-up for the knock out stages.
SCC Firsts from the Cosmo League claimed a point in their opening game against Siglap CSC from the EFL in a 1-1 draw. The latter displayed a stellar performance in defense to resist an onslaught by SCC Firsts in the first half. Their perseverance paid dividends when Mohamed Bakri gave them the lead with a thumping header into the top corner. SCC Firsts had to dig deep to salvage the draw when defender Ong Kian Ann was well positioned to score the equalizer from a corner.
SCC Firsts was back to their best in their second game when they trounced BBTC from Agape Cup 4-0. Dutch midfielder Jamie Saarloos scored a brace for the former while Barry Teasdale and AJ Cyrille added 1 goal each to claim the tie.
BBTC proved to be a different side in their final group fixture against Siglap CSC as Joel Johnson gave them the lead in the first half. Siglap CSC seemed to be heading for an early exit in the tourhament when Mohammed Syazwan saved the EFL Champions their blushes by equalizing midway through the second half.
An unbeaten SCC Firsts topped Group B while Siglap CSC qualified for the knockout stages with 2 draws.
Casuals FC from the Cosmo League came from a goal behind to defeat Team BI from the D2D League 2-1 in a physical encounter. A defensive lapse by Casuals’s defense allowed midfielder Tien Boon Siang to nod home a looping header in the opening minutes of the game. This prompted Casuals FC to go on the offensive as they search for the equalizer. The Cosmo side was duly rewarded when British forward Phil Hobbins stole in front of the BI keeper and netted the vital equalizer from a corner. Casuals then capitalized on a defensive mistake by Team BI and striker Francis Chandler slotted home the winner.
A valiant performance by X-United from the Fair Challenge League in their opening fixture held off Casuals in a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, X-United crashed out from the group stage as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against Team BI in their final game. Man of the match Bai Guo Rui turned the game around with the first goal for Team BI and created a good assist for Vincent Wong to notch the second.
Casuals FC topped Group C while Team BI qualified for the knockout stages courtesy of a vital win over X-United.
Eunos Crescent FC from the NFL demonstrated their superiority in Group D when they dismantled The OC from the D2D League 3-0 in their opening fixture. The OC bounced back with a 2-0 win over Rendezvous FC from the Goal Arena Football League in their second game. Defender Mark Anthony Fernandez opened the scoring for the former and diminutive midfielder Basil Gerrard Teo wrapped up the tie with the second goal.
Eunos Crescent FC failed to claim 2 wins out of 2 when they were held to a goalless stalemate by a resilient Rendezvous FC. Eunos Crescent topped Group D while The OC qualified for the knockout stages with their win over Rendezvous FC.
The opening fixture in Day two of the League of Champions proved to be an evenly contested affair as both Siglap and Racing FC had their fair share of chances. Nevertheless, both teams adopted a cautious approach to the game when an off the ball incident saw both sides losing a player. The game ended goalless and went into penalties (3 mandatory kicks from each side). Eventually, Jamie Townsend kept his cool and converted the winning penalty as Racing FC proceeded to the Semi Finals in a 3-1 win on penalties.
A rampant Casuals FC thrashed The OC 4-0 to book their place in the Semi Finals. The latter failed to cope with the physical presence of their opponents when they conceded a penalty early on and never recovered from then on. Composed striker Tom Bennett stepped up and scored the resulting penalty to give Casuals the lead. British Forward Marc Seigfried then put in a dazzling 2nd half show when he became the first player in the League of Champions to score a hat trick.
It was a highly entertaining and pulsating encounter between compatriots SCC Firsts and SCC NFL as both sides adopted an attacking approach to the match. SCC Firsts proved to be the more clinical in front of goal when an excellent finish by British midfielder John Norfolk gave them the lead. SCC NFL were relentless in their search for the equalizer but SCC Firsts progressed to the Semi Finals with a 2-0 win when robust striker AJ Cyrille scored his second goal of the tournament with a glancing header into the bottom corner of the SCC NFL goal.
A physically intense thriller saw Team BI hold Eunos Crescent FC to a goalless draw as both teams failed to take their chances in front of goal. Team BI left themselves with no chance as striker Alan Fang and sweeper Rome both missed their penalties and Eunos made it into the semis winning 2-1 on penalties.
Casuals FC continued their scintillating form when they cruised past Racing FC 3-0 to progress into the Finals of the League of Champions. Racing’s goalkeeper Craig Albrightson had a horrific outing as his mistakes led to the first 2 goals for the Casuals. The first one went in after he failed to stop Casuals manager Malcolm Abell's soft free kick attempt. He then mishandled a cross which allowed Ross Robertson to make it 2-0.
Racing FC shifted into offensive mode when Former S League midfielder Marko Kraljevic came on in the second half but it proved too little too late when Striker Marc Seigfried landed his fourth goal of the tournament with an exquisite volley to give Casuals a 3-0 lead.
On the contrary, SCC Firsts endured a difficult start in their Semi Final thriller when Mohd Hakim gave an early lead to Eunos Crescent FC with his goal. The early goal conceded spurred SCC Firsts into life as they search for the elusive equalizer.
Their persistence paid dividends when British midfielder Steven Rogers received a low cross and unleash a blistering strike into the goal, leaving Eunos goalkeeper Adi Salleh with no chance. Despite having a player sent off due to 2 yellow card offences, Eunos Crescent held on for the draw and settled for a penalty shootout.
Goalkeeper Ronnie Smollet ensured SCC Firsts' progress into the Finals of the League of Champions with a 4-3 win in penalties when he made a crucial save in the 4th (sudden-death) penalty attempt.
Come 3pm 30th October (Saturday), an interesting and captivating spectacle awaits as 2 Cosmo representatives, Casuals FC and SCC Firsts, will vie to be the ‘best team' in amateur football in the League of Champions Finals at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Eunos Crescent will take on Racing FC at 1pm on the same day at Jalan Besar Stadium as well.
Complete Results for Group Stage, Quarter-finals and Semi-finals
Best of Pics from the League of Champions