Woodlands Wellington FC 2 (Moon Soon Ho 28’, Khalid Hamdaoui 72’)
Warriors FC 2 (Sufian Anuar 68’, Shimpei Sakurada 84’)
Photo Credit: Warriors FC
Shimpei Sakurada’s late equaliser saved Warriors FC and their head coach V. Selvaraj from embarrassment in a thrilling 2-2 S.League draw with Woodlands Wellington in front of 1,723 at Woodlands Stadium on Thursday evening.
The hosts missed an early penalty, but went ahead twice through Moon Soon Ho and Khalid Hamdaoui. The Warriors levelled first through Sufian Anuar before Sakurada ensured a share of the points.
A draw was a satisfactory start for the Rams, who had finished the last three seasons bottom of the table, but left the visitors seeking for their first competitive win after failure in the Charity Shield last Friday.
Woodlands were awarded a penalty after three minutes when Ang Zhiwei was brought down on the goal line by Sakurada after receiving a free kick from Hamdaoui.
Moon placed his spot-kick neatly, sending Warriors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny the wrong way, but denied by the bottom of the post.
Former Albirex Niigata (Singapore) midfielder Sakurada almost made amends immediately after his escape from culpability in conceding the penalty.
His rising shot from 20 metres out beat Woodlands custodian Yazid Yasin, but not the crossbar.
The former Geylang International goalkeeper also denied Sufian Anuar twice to ensure the match remained in the balance before his side struck at the other end on 28 minutes.
Chang Jo Yoon released Hamdaoui on the left as the latter galloped past a static Warriors backline. While Hassan covered to parry his initial effort, the rebound reached Moon who made no mistake from close range.
Woodlands came close to doubling the lead three minutes after the restart when a threatening cross from Ang just failed to reach Chang.
Their strike pairing of Hamdaoui and Moon nearly served up another goal for the Rams shortly after, but the final touch was missing as the ball bobbled unmolested across goal.
Sufian made the hosts pay for their profligacy when he glanced in a header on the right from a neat Sakurada cross to level the scores on 68 minutes.
The Rams regained the lead four minutes later when former Ajax Amsterdam trainee Hamdaoui, who was the star of the evening, reacted quickly to a Chang free kick and poked the ball into the net.
With six minutes to play, Warriors capitalised on a rare error from Yazid as Sakurada pounced on the Woodlands goalkeeper’s slip off his earlier header to make sure the ball crossed the line.
A share of the points was the final outcome as both sides would seek to raise their respective games in the next round of league matches.
Woodlands Wellington (4-4-2): Yazid Yasin (GK); Cho Sung Hwan, Shahril Alias, Rosman Sulaiman (Hidhir Hasbiallah 88’), Ang Zhiwei; Atsushi Shimono, Khalid Hamdaoui, Farizal Basri (Taufiq Rahmat 68’), Armanizam Dolah (C); Chang Jo Yoon (Goh Swee Swee 82’), Moon Soon Ho
Warriors FC (4-4-2): Hassan Sunny (GK); Kazuyuki Toda, Abdil Qaiyyim, Daniel Bennett (C), Marin Vidosevic; Shi Jiayi, Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Zakir Samsuddin; Sufian Anuar, Erwan Gunawan (Prakash Manikam 64’)