SAFFC 3 (Fazrul Nawaz 76’, 85’ Tatsuro Inui 82’)
Home United 3 (Qiu Li 22’, 78’ Ihata 65’)
Photo courtesy of SAFFC
3 games into the season and the two biggest clubs in the S-League are still winless. While Home United got their third draw in three games, SAFFC’s two losses and a point from three games certainly represents their worst start to a season.
Both teams started the game cautiously with neither side creating many chances. Mendy, though was causing problems aerially, once heading down a ball for Indra, who played as if he had a point to prove, although SAFFC defenders were quick to block the resulting shot.
SAFFC did create a few half-chances, with Karoglan heading straight at Lionel Lewis. The best chance of the first half for them came when Tatsuro Inui played a quick one-two with Seiji Saito, leaving Anzite for dead. A mix up between Kenji Arai and Lionel Lewis saw the ball break to Inui but just out of his reach as the ball trickled out.
Lionel had an uneasy first half, constantly dropping crosses or even missing them completely. Thankfully though, the Warriors failed to capitalize on them. It proved to be costly, as Qiu Li broke a deadlock with a wonderful freekick. Winning the freekick against Shimpei Sakurada, Qiu Li stepped up and curled the ball right into the top right hand corner, leaving SAFFC’s custodian Shahril Jantan with absolutely no chance despite diving at full stretch.
The rest of the first half was evenly contested with SAFFC edging it a little on possession, but both sides never really threatened with Home taking a 1-0 lead into the break.
SAFFC came out of the break determined to salvage something from the game. A good move saw Karoglan head the ball onto the path of Shimpei Sakurada, whose volley was saved acrobatically by Lionel. Another chance saw Karoglan taking on Anzite and Kenji Arai, swiveling and sends a shot, it failed to trouble Lionel Lewis who managed to gather it.
Against the run of play, Home Utd doubled their lead in the 65th minute. A superb lofted through pass from Indra Shahdan found Shotaro Ihata, who was left unmarked by both Bah Mamadou and Daniel Bennett, and Ihata took the ball on the bounce and unleashed a volley that left Shahril Jantan with no chance. It was a well taken goal and Ihata was all smiles as he finally scored his first goal for his SAFFC.
There was a stoppage of play as the floodlights went out in the 70th minute. It was clearly a blessing in disguise as play resumes, Fazrul pulled one back for the Warriors almost immediately. Ruzaini, coming on just before play resumed, press Shi Jiayi deep in Home’s half and won the ball back. He passed it to Karoglan whose cross was misjudge by Franklin Anzite. Fazrul made no mistakes as he sloted past a helpless Lionel Lewis.
Just when a comeback was on the thoughts of SAFFC, their defence once again suffered a lapse of concentration as Qiu Li scoreed his second of the night. Ihata was the creator this time, as he got the ball down the byline past Noh Rahman and cut it back for Qiu Li who had a virtually empty net to tap the ball into.
While it seemed as if all hope was gone, Karoglan won a freekick right on the edge of the box. Home United had every right to feel hard done by, as it was a 50-50 challenge between Kenji Arai and Karoglan. Tatsuro Inui however, showed no mercy as he stepped up and strikes it into the top corner.
Just 3 minutes later, Fazrul managed to equalize for Warriors, completing the dramatic comeback; Karoglan received the ball on the edge of the area, made a cut back and sends in a perfect through ball to Fazrul who again made no mistake. The Home United defence though, had to be blamed for switching off and clearly paid the price.
The action was not ever yet as Daniel Bennett gave the ball away to Indra right in the heart of SAFFC’s half, but Indra shot wide despite racing through which meant that the game ended in an exciting 3-3 draw.
While both sides’ defence featured some big names in the local football scene, they were still making mistakes after mistakes. Anzite looked uncomfortable playing in a three man defence, as he was constantly overrun by Tatsuro Inui. Jeremy Chiang was a guilty party too for not tracking Fazrul for the third goal. Lionel Lewis too, hardly inspired his backline, as he spilled a number of what seems to be simple routine catches.
Daniel Bennett and Bah Mamadou both experienced defenders played with bag of nerves, constantly giving the ball away in their own half. Bah in particular, was unable to cope with Mendy aerially, constantly losing headers to Mendy in dangerous positions. Bah too, was at fault for not tracking Ihata for Home United’s second, while Bennett was nowhere near Qiu Li for the third. Razaleigh and Noh were also guilty parties as they were unable to stop Home from attacking down the wings, and also gave the ball away countless of times.
SAFFC head coach Richard Bok believed they got lucky, although they should not have been 2-0 down initially. “It was a good comeback, but in the first place we should not have been 2-0 down.. We probably had the lion’s share (possession) of the game especially in the first half.” He also added, “Sometimes you know it’s about maybe a bit of luck, whether the luck goes to your side or the luck goes to the other side, and luckily the luck came to us.”
He also felt that the defenders have “a lot room for improvement”, when quipped when the backline let him down. “Whether you are experienced or not experienced, we need to improve ourselves. No matter you are old or young player, important (thing) is to learn the mistake and to improve on it.”
With this result, SAFFC earned their first point of the season, while Home United has their 3rd consecutive draw. Both teams however, will have to work hard to have any chance of catching Albirex at the top of the table who has 9 points from three wins already.
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan(GK), Razaleigh Khalik, Noh Rahman, Daniel Bennett(C), Bah Mamadou, Zulfadli Zainal (Fazrul Nawaz 69’), Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Seiji Saito(Shukor Zailan 82’), Erwan Gunawan(Ruzaini Zainal 75’), Mislav Karoglan
Home Utd: Lionel Lewis(GK), Jeremy Chiang, Kenji Arai, Franklin Anzite, Shi Jiayi(C), Masrezwan Masturi (Kairuldin Ishak 67’, Hafiz Nor 87’), John Wilkinson, Firdaus Idros, Qiu Li, Frederic Mendy (Shotaro Ihata 57’), Indra Shahdan
Yellow cards: Mislav Karoglan 60’