Courts Young Lions 2 (Shahfiq Ghani 55’, Aqhari Abdullah 67’)
Singapore Armed Forces FC 1 (Fazrul Nawaz 44’)
Photo courtesy of Mark Toh (Football OPOD)
Ten men Courts Young Lions defeated Singapore Armed Forces who ended their game with just nine men 2-1 to all but end their slim title hopes after a goal each from Shahfiq Ghani and Aqhari Abdullah while Fazrul Nawaz opened the scoring for the Warriors.
While both teams may have played out a thrilling affair back in March when SAFFC triumphed 4-3 at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, it was anything but that this time round. The first half was a scrappy affair, with neither team able to assert themselves in the game.
It resulted in a lack of chances for both sides, with the hosts only able to have a few tries from distance via lone striker Syafiq Zainal and winger Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee although they were too weak to really test Warriors’ custodian Shahril Jantan.
The deadlock was broken in the forty-fourth minute after a mistake from Shahril’s opposite number, Syazwan Buhari. Last season’s top scorer Mislav Karoglan had sped down the right flank before firing in a low cross, which Syazwan missed as he came out for leaving Singapore International Fazrul Nawaz with the simplest of finishes.
That sparked the game into life, as the Young Lions mounted an instant reply. Nazrul Ahmad Nazari sped down the the right wing almost immediately after the restart, before his cutback searched out the unmarked Shahfiq Ghani. The attacking midfielder then produced a superb finish, as he guided the ball into the bottom corner to leave Shahril rooted to his spot.
SAFFC came out of the halftime break trying to push hard for a second goal, but time and time again, they were stopped in their tracks by the superb Sirina Camara. The French defender produced sliding tackles one after another and more often than not, they were superbly timed.
That gave his side the confidence to push forward as they slowly started to gain a foothold in the match over the tiring Warriors, despite having just played three days earlier. That decisive clincher came in the sixty-seventh minute through a superb freekick from Aqhari Abdullah.
Lee, who had one of his better games of the season, was fouled by Marin Vidosevic just twenty yards out. Up stepped Aqhari, who curled the ball with such perfection that even the fully stretched arms of Shahril Jantan were unable to prevent the ball from going in through the top corner.
Any hopes of a comeback for the team decked in royal blue were diminished as Zulfadli Zainal was first sent off for two bookable offences, before Captain Daniel Bennett was sent off together with Haniff Sadique for a mini scuffle as they got tangled up towards the end of the match.
Title bid all but over
A dejected SAFFC head coach Richard Bok felt that the loss was a very disappointing one, especially as the team was looking as though it might be able to re-enter the title race. He said, “It’s disappointing. We thought we could push hard in the second round. It’s definitely a set back and there’s only a very very slim chance now.”
He congratulated the Courts Young Lions on their win, saying, “Credit to the Young Lions. They had nothing to lose, they passed the ball around, they came out to play, and they had a lot of speed.”
“This is one of the games where the entire team looked off-key today,” added Bok on his team.
“It beats me (on the poor performance of the team). So far in the second round we have been quite good. We move the ball around well, we attack well, we defend well but in this game it seemed the opposite. Hopefully it’s just one of those off day. We have to regroup and look forward to the League Cup,” said the SAFFC head coach.
Courts Young Lions Head Coach Robin Chitrakar felt that his team did superbly.
“(It was) not easy definitely. Some of them just returned from the AFC U22 qualifiers in Indonesia and had to play back to back games, so it’s definitely not easy for them,” said Chitrakar.
“The key to tonight’s victory was our determination, our fighting spirit. We wanted to win this game badly. Definitely, the boys performed above expectations,” praised the former Singapore International on his team’s victory.
Starhub League Cup
The S-League will now take a break as we see the start of the Starhub League Cup on the 26th of July when SAFFC take on Tanjong Pagar at Choa Chu Kang while Home United will host Courts Young Lions at the Bishan Stadium.
Yellows Cards: Syafiq Zainal, Sirina Camara (CYL), Zulfadli Zainal Abidin (2), Shukor Zailan, Razaleigh Khalik, Marin Vidosevic, Ruzaini Zanial (SAFFC)
Red Cards: Haniff Sadique (CYL), Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Daniel Bennett (SAFFC)
Courts Young Lions: Syazwan Buhari(GK), Shahfiq Ghani, Faritz Hameed, Hafiz Sujad (C), Sirina Camara, Shamil Sharif (Zulfahmi Arifin 55’), Aqhari Abdullah, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee, Syafiq Zainal (Haniff Sadique 67’), Nazrul Nazari (Fazli Ayob 76’). Unused subs: Neezam Aziz, Gary Loo, Sufianto Salleh, Mohamed Zulfairuz.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan(GK), Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Razaleigh Khalik (Prakash Manikam 86’), Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Mislav Karoglan, Fazrul Nawaz, Marin Vidosevic, Shukor Zailan (Noh Rahman 70’), Daniel Bennett(C), Aliff Shafaein (Ruzaini Zainal 70’). Unused subs: Rezal Hassan, Hafsyar Farkhan, Eddie Chang, Hakim Jumahat.