Gombak United 0
Singapore Armed Forces 1 (Shimpei Sakurada 90’)
Same old, same old. Singapore Armed Forces got their third straight 1-0 win in the same fashion as they did in their two previous games.
The only difference this time though, was the goal scorer. Instead of Mislav Karoglan, the hero in the last two, it was instead birthday boy Shimpei Sakurada who scored. ‘King Kari’, on the otherhand, had a quiet game.
SAFFC started out the badly and in truth, they could have gone in at halftime trailing by at least two goals.
Youngster Samuel Benjamin, had the first chance of the game and perhaps was a tad unlucky not to score. A low freekick into the box was not cleared by the away side’s backline and found its way to young winger, but he somehow managed to hit the crossbar from nine yards out instead.
Three minutes later, Hafiz Rahim found himself with a chance on the break. After going almost the half the length of the pitch, he managed to get in a shot but it was saved comfortably by SAFFC goalkeeper Shahril Jantan.
Shahril in particular, would go on play a big role in preventing Gombak from going into halftime with a lead.
From a freekick in the twenty first minute, Hafiz Rahim sent in a wonderful cross and it was met by the head of Julien Durand. The Frenchman’s attempt however, was saved brilliantly by Shahril with his fingertips. The rebound fell to centreback Obadin Aikhena, but his follow up effort went into the side netting.
SAFFC finally came to life in thirty third minute, when Karoglan had two tries in as many minute.
The first attempt came courtesy of a brilliant through pass from Japanese winger Tatsuro Inui, but his shot from inside the box was well saved by Gombak custodian Zaiful Nizam at his near post.
The second, a minute later, was from twenty five yards out. It was a feeble attempt however and it went straight into the arms of Zaiful.
That failed to spark the Warriors, however.
Gombak came out of the halftime break more determined to break the deadlock and get the goal their play deserved, but once again they failed to take their chances well.
Apart from a curling effort that went wide from Hafiz Rahim following a one two with leftback Nurullah, they never threatened much, with most of the shots coming from outside the box. Even the arrival of Jung Hee Bong for the quiet Fairoz Hassan failed to ignite the Bulls.
They would go on to pay the price for it.
Much like the previous two games, SAFFC started coming into the game more in the last twenty minutes, pressuring the Gombak United defence. However, with Aikhena doing a good job in keeping Karoglan, it seemed as if the game would head for a goalless draw instead.
However, Sakurada came to the rescue right in the first minute of injury time. Karoglan started the break before finding Inui on the edge of the box. The winger smartly laid the ball on for his fellow Japanese who swiveled before placing the ball into the bottom corner perfectly ensuring that his birthday was well wrapped up with three points for his team.
Against an SAFFC backline that looked static at times, Gombak United created lots of chances especially in the first half, but will be wondering how on earth they did not score.
Hafiz Rahim and Samuel Benjamin were outstanding, and created chances for both themselves and their teammates a number of times.
However, time and time again, they were denied by the excellent Shahril Jantan, or the woodwork. When they were not, it was usually a case of bad finishing, with the ball going wide a number of times too.
It was a fact that was not lost on Gombak United head coach K Balagumaran.
“The amount of chances we created, we should have been four goals up at least in the first half to me.”
“This is what happens if you don’t take your chances. You can play a beautiful game for ninety minutes, but in extra time, they created a chance and they scored,” he said.
He attributed the late goal down to a lack of mental toughness.
“Against Tampines it was the same thing, we were two goals up and we collapsed in the last part.”
“A lot of it has got to do with the mental strength. Ninety two minute, players think it’s a draw game, and that’s where the opponents come at you,” he added.
Room for improvement
SAFFC head coach Richard Bok felt the performance of the team can still be improved despite the win, particularly as they did not start the game well.
“We didn’t start well. I think first half we were quite bad, until the last ten minutes. I think second half we came back strongly, basically we saw more of the ball and finally we took our chances with the birthday boy scoring.”
“I’m sastified with the three points, but I think we can still improve.”
However, he felt that the win was nonetheless a crucial one, with a number of players out injured.
“With so many injured players though, the win is a good one.
“If you look at our bench today, they all are prime league players apart from Rezal (Hassan),” he added.
SAFFC will next face Geylang United at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on 10th May, while Gombak will take on Albirex Niigata(S) at the Jurong East Stadium one day later.
Gombak United: Zaiful Nizam(GK), Nurullah Hussein, Adrian Dhanaraj, Hafiz Rahim, Julien Durand (Mustaqim Manzur 78’), Fairoz Hasan (Jung Hee Bong 57’), Christopher Anderson, Obadin Aikhena(C), Samuel Benjamin, Walid Lounis, Nur Naiim (Shafuan Sutohmon 71’). Unused subs: Farouq Farkhan, Amran Addin, K Vikraman, Fareez Farhan.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan(GK), Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Noh Rahman, Tatsuro inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Mislav Karoglan, Erwan Gunawan (Prakash Manikam 79’), Shukor Zailan, Daniel Bennett, Hafsyar Farkhan, Eddie Chang. Unused subs: Rezal Hassan, Nurhisham Suhaimi, Shariff Shaik, Nur Hakim Jumaat.
Yellow Cards: (Gombak) Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Mislav Karoglan, Daniel Bennett, Prakash Manikam (SAFFC)