SAFFC 3 (Aliff Shafaein 64’, 74’, Marin Jonjic 89’)
Tanjong Pagar 0
In the Starhub League Cup opening Group A match played at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium last night, SAFFC ran out 3-0 winners against visitors Tanjong Pagar to put themselves in a good position to qualify for the quarter-finals of this competition.
There was a rare start for SAFFC’s Rezal Hassan as he took his place in between the sticks, with first-choice Shahril Jantan presumably rested for this cup tie. Prime League winger Marin Jonjic was also given a start and the lively winger even got himself on the scoresheet when he scored an individual goal just before the final whistle went.
The Jaguars on the other hand, fielded the same team from their last game and midfielder Carlos Delgado came close to opening the scoring in the 16th minute but his low shot missed the goal by mere inches.
Rezal was hardly tested in the first half but the same could not be said about his opposite number, Fajar Sarib who was clearly the busier of the two. In the 31st minute, Shukor teed up Jonjic for a crack at goal on the edge of the penalty area but the Croat sent the shot into the arms of Fajar.
Fajar then had to be alert to palm away Shimpei Sakurada’s fierce left-footed effort fom 15 yards out minutes later. And five minutes before the break, Fajar was again tested this time by Inui, as the 35-year-old kept out the Japanese’s goalbound effort in the area.
0-0 it was at half-time as both teams could not be separated. A brilliant second-half performance, however, eventually saw SAFFC seizing the advantage in the 64th minute; but that was not before ex-SAFFC defender Hafiz Osman forcing a superb reflex save from Rezal, who did well to tip his header over the bar from Delgado’s corner.
Aliff put the home side into the lead in the 64th minute when he took advantage of a defensive mix-up in the Jaguars’ backline before calmly slotting the ball into an empty net and the same man would go on to add a second goal for SAFFC and himself ten minutes later.
Timing his run to perfection, he latched onto a Shukor Zailan lofted pass and raced through on goal before finishing underneath the legs of the onrushing Fajar Sarib.
Marin Jonjic then sealed victory for Richard Bok’s side when he fired home from an almost impossible angle a minute from time to claim all three points.
Speaking after the game, Tanjong Pagar coach Terry Pathmanathan did not seem too pleased with his side's defending.
"I still have a very big problem in our defending. It was disappointing, everyone in the backline," he said.
"No matter what formation (I set them out to) play, it's still the same problem- our defending!"
When asked if things would have been different had they converted the chances they created, the ex-national captain replied: "It's really difficult to say because looking at my backline, I think... It's a very tough thing to do."
"But they were pushing forward and trying (at the same time). At the end of the day, we lost to a team which was a class above us, in footballing terms."
The only consolation for the coach was however, the players 'working really hard' but eventually admitted work rate alone was not enough for them to get results.
On the other hand, the beaming SAFFC coach Richard Bok admitted that his team were struggling a little in the first half but picked up in the second half and eventually won the game.
"I think we struggled a bit, (in the) first half but we did pick up at the end of it. I felt the last 60 minutes, and not the first 30, looked better."
"Maybe we still had not gotten over the loss (to Courts Young Lions) in our last game. We looked rather lethargic but we eventually clicked in the second half," he added.
Bok concluded: "This was a very good three points for us, especially considering the fact that you only have three teams in a group. A win definitely boosts our chances of qualifying for the next round!"
Tanjong Pagar will now face Brunei DPMM – the other team in Group A – in their final group match, this Sunday (29th of July) at the Queenstown Stadium while SAFFC take on DPMM on Wednesday (1st August) at the Yishun Stadium.
The top two teams of each group will progress to the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
SAFFC: Rezal Hassan; Zulfadli Zainal, Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic, Ruzaini Zainal (Eddie Chang 82’); Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Marin Jonjic, Aliff Shafaein (Erwan Gunawan 80’); Fazrul Nawaz (Matthew Abraham 90’)
Unused subs: Razaleigh Khalik, Shahril Jantan, Hafsyar Farkhan, Prakash Manikam
Tanjong Pagar: Fajar Sarib; Zahid Ahmad (Hafiz Nor 63’), Hafiz Osman, Hanafi Salleh, Jonathan Xu; Delwinder Singh (C), Anthony Aymard, Carlos Delgado, Takaya Kawanabe, Asraf Rashid; Gilbert Bayonne
Unused subs: Azhar Ahmad, Sudhershen Hariram, Syed Karim, Shamsudin Hashim, S. Vikneshwaran, Abdul Rahim Latiff
Yellow card(s): - (SAFFC); Zahid Ahmad, Hafiz Osman (Tanjong Pagar)
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