Strong second half display helps Sailors Women extend WPL winning streak

The Lion City Sailors Women’s team kept up their perfect start to the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, as they secured a hard-fought 3-0 win against eighth-place Tanjong Pagar United on Saturday (20 April) night. 

The victory at Choa Chu Kang Stadium further solidified the Sailors’ position at the top of the league standings, with Daniel Ong’s charges extending their lead to six points before Sunday’s WPL fixtures.

Despite the seemingly comfortable final score, however, the Sailors initially found it tough going against a resilient Jaguars outfit, and struggled to break through their gritty defense in the first half. It marked the first time this season that the Sailors failed to find the back of the net before halftime.

Reflecting on what was an uncharacteristically underwhelming showing in the first 45 minutes for the Sailors, forward Dorcas Chu said, “We weren’t able to hit our game objectives despite trying our best in the first half as we were impatient and too eager to score.

“I think we could’ve been more patient and had more confidence in our passes and our shots. It’s quite a shame because we could’ve ended the game in the first half but the team still did really well after we got back on the same page during the break.”

Dorcas, who returned to the squad after missing last week’s win over Hougang United due to COVID-19, also credited Tanjong Pagar for working hard to make life difficult for her side.

“Everywhere you turned, there were defenders,” the 20-year-old recounted. “They worked really well as a team, and it’s a reminder for us to not be complacent because every team will fight. It’s all about who wants the ball more, and in the first half, I think they (Tanjong Pagar) came out on top.”

However, the Sailors regrouped after the break and eventually found the breakthrough, with Sara Hayduchok and Madison Telmer scoring in the 51st and 64th minutes respectively. Substitute Cara Chang then added the icing on the cake with her first goal of the season in the dying minutes of the game to make it 3-0.

Now having scored in back-to-back games, Sara is determined to continue being a threat in front of goal, especially during set-pieces.

“I feel like I’m just doing my due diligence…I’m placed there (in the box) because of my height and heading precision so now that I’m finishing the job, I want to do it consistently,” Sara, whose primary position is as a centre-back, explained.

“I already know the opponents will put the tallest and strongest girl on me because I have those two traits in my favour too. I wish I could play it more low-key but to be honest, I love a good challenge, so I just want to keep fighting for those headers.”

Nonetheless, Sara believes that the team needs to be more confident in front of goal, as the former Tampines Rovers player elaborated, “I have seen consistently in Singapore football that players struggle to take the shot when it’s open. I do hope that we can improve on that as a team.”

Sara added that she was proud to see how well the promoted batch of young players – which includes 15-year-old Cara – has been doing so far this season.

The Filipino-American mused, “I really see all of our younger players as talented as our senior players so for me, I don’t feel any sense of surprise. I feel so much happiness for them.

“The same way I feel relief after doing my job to head the ball in, they do too, when they do their respective jobs. They’re on the team on merit, and we want to keep it that way.”

The Sailors will take a two-week break before returning to the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on 4 May for their next WPL match, against Balestier Khalsa.


Resilience, repetition, relentlessness – Sailors hotshot Raeka hungry for more goals

Having gotten off to an excellent start to their 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) campaign, the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team will be aiming to make it four wins in as many matches, when they take on eighth-placed Tanjong Pagar United at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Saturday (20 April) night. 

While the Sailors Women’s good form has been a result of collective team effort, forward Raeka Ee has undoubtedly emerged as the standout player for the reigning champions.

After all, she is the only player, along with Albirex Niigata’s Mulan Ayliffe, to have scored in each of their three WPL appearances so far. However, Raeka’s record of five goals currently puts her at the top of the scoring charts, with one more goal than Mulan to her name.

Given that this is Raeka’s debut season in the women’s top-flight, her prolific scoring form has come as a pleasant surprise, even to herself. Rather than resting on her laurels, however, the 20-year-old is determined to achieve even more in the Sailors’ upcoming WPL matches.

“The matches in the WPL are a lot more physical and technical, but it’s a challenge I’ve enjoyed stepping up to, and I’m working hard to continue this momentum,” said Raeka, who starred in the second-tier Women’s National League with Mattar Sailors last year.

“I can’t take all the credit for my goals – I believe it reflects more on the team’s collective’s effort and Coach Daniel’s (Ong) faith in all of us. He puts a lot of trust in the young players here, and we’re all empowered to achieve our maximum potential.”

Raeka’s relentlessness in honing her finishing skills, along with her eagerness to learn, are attributes that have impressed Sailors Head Coach Daniel.  

The 35-year-old revealed, “Raeka has been working hard – not just on her finishing, but also her movement and all-round play. Most importantly, she has such a positive learning attitude. She is always asking questions so that she can improve herself as a player.”

“So it’s no surprise that she’s been doing well so far, and I firmly believe she can go very far if she continues on this trajectory.” 

Unsurprisingly, with Raeka’s rising reputation comes heightened expectations and extra attention from opposing defenders to keep her out. Nonetheless, the resilient Raeka is unfazed and ready for tougher hurdles ahead – starting with this Saturday’s clash against the Jaguars.

“The extra attention from the opposition comes naturally if you perform well, but I’m ready to take on any challenge. My focus remains on refining my individual abilities and playing my part for the team,” she emphasised. 

“It may sound like a cliché, but I try to take it game-by-game. Whenever I get an opportunity to play, I’ll do my best and enjoy the game at the same time. It’s not about me, but the team – we’re all working towards the goal of retaining our WPL title.”


Ruthless Sailors Women take down Hougang to maintain perfect start

The Lion City Sailors Women’s Team continued their impressive start to the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season with a dominant 4-0 victory over title rivals Hougang United at Yishun Stadium on Sunday (15 Apr) evening. 

A commanding first-half performance saw them take a three goal lead into the break, before a late strike by Josephine Ang sealed an emphatic win, propelling them three points clear at the top of the table with three victories in as many matches.

The result and manner of victory was particularly impressive, given that two teenagers were making their first starts for the Sailors in the WPL.

Nur Izairida Shakira was handed her first-ever start in goal in the WPL, replacing experienced custodian Beatrice Tan. Despite her youth and inexperience, the 16-year-old – who previously made a brief appearance in a 2-1 win over Albirex Niigata (S) three weeks ago – did not look out of place, as she made several impressive saves to deny Hougang’s Nicole Lim and secure her first-ever WPL clean sheet.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Natasha Kaur was given the nod in central midfield – this meant that all seven teenagers promoted from the club’s Girls Academy have now featured in the women’s top flight in 2024. The other six are the aforementioned Shakira, Tyan Foong, Yuvika Suresh, Seri Nurinsyirah, Nadia Nuraffendi and Liyana Rickit.

Analysing his young team’s win over title challengers Hougang, Sailors Head Coach Daniel Ong said, “The players stuck to the game plan diligently and fought for each other on the pitch. We knew that this game wouldn’t be easy. But all the girls were up to the task today, and that leaves me with nothing much to complain about.

“Shakira controlled her defence well and made a few good interventions throughout. As for Natasha, she showed some promising moments and will definitely improve with more training and matches.”

Daniel’s young charges dominated early proceedings, and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock in the 20th minute. Syazwani Ruzi delivered a defence-splitting pass for hotshot forward Raeka Ee, who fired home a composed finish into the bottom right corner for her fifth goal of the season. 

The goal means Raeka has now scored in each of her three WPL appearances so far, as she continues to make an impact in her debut season in the top flight.

The Sailors’ lead was doubled on 39 minutes when Nur Sarah Zu’risqha’s industrious play down the flank resulted in an own goal by Hougang’s Nur Izyani.

The Sailors extended their lead further just before half-time, when centre-back Sara Hayduchok headed home from Ho Hui Xin’s precise cross.

Natasha, who showed a maturity beyond her years in the middle of the pitch, was subsequently subbed off for new signing Laura Gänser.

Reflecting on her performance, the 14-year-old said, “I made quite a few good runs and passes, but I think I could still improve further on my positioning and when to time my runs. I’m grateful to senior players like Hui Xin and Sara for guiding me along. Now, my next target is to complete my first 90 minutes in the WPL.”

A three-goal lead meant the Sailors were able to take their foot off the gas in the second half. But they still had time to add the icing on the cake in the 88th minute with a fourth goal, as substitute Josephine converted home a firm low finish for her first goal of the season.

The win extends the Sailors’ unbeaten streak in the WPL to 33 matches – a run that stretches all the way back to 2022.

Despite the convincing start to the season, however, Daniel does not want his players to rest on their laurels, as he emphasised the need to strive for continual improvement. 

“There’re still some details that we can work on, especially when it comes to making better use of our ball possession, and how to read each other’s body movements on the pitch. But I’m sure with the girls’ commitment, we’ll surely get even better.”

Next up for the Sailors Women in the WPL is an encounter against Tanjong Pagar next Saturday (20 April) at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium. 


Commitment and control – Sailors Women aim to gun down unbeaten Hougang

Three weeks after their tenacious 2-1 victory over Albirex Niigata (S), the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team will take on another Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) title challenger in Hougang United at Yishun Stadium on Sunday (14 April) evening. 

Both teams are currently locked at the top of the table with six points each, having won their first two matches. The Sailors hold a slight advantage due to their slightly superior goal difference.

Sailors Head Coach Daniel Ong is acutely aware of the threat that Hougang pose, and has emphasised the need for his young side to take control of early proceedings. 

“The biggest threat from Hougang are their attackers – they have extremely fast players who are very clinical in front of goal. They’re a side who are definitely in for the title challenge, and we cannot take them lightly,” said the 35-year-old, who took over from two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan in the off-season. 

“We just need to play our usual game and know how to control the tempo. If we can dictate possession and keep the ball well, I think we’ll win the game.”

Preparations for this massive game have been far from ideal. After all, nine Sailors players only returned to Singapore earlier this week, following a 10-day training camp with the National Women’s Team in Saudi Arabia, where they played two closed-door friendlies with Al-Nassr and Qasedeya. 

This meant that the likes of Umairah Hamdan, Dorcas Chu and Nur Sarah Zu’risqha only had a couple of training sessions with the club since returning. Nonetheless, the Sailors remain unperturbed, as they seek to extend their unbeaten run in the WPL since 2022 to 33 matches. 

“It’s definitely tiring to return to league action so quickly after international duty, but we’re not complaining about it. We’re all raring to go again and ready to fight for the team’s cause,” said Sarah, who impressed in her Sailors’ WPL debut against Albirex the last time out. 

Following that crucial win over Albirex, which was played out in front of a packed crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Daniel believes his charges have the potential to achieve even more this season. 

“The win against Albirex has given the team more belief and affirmation that what we’ve been working on and off the pitch is working. I want the girls to stay committed, believe, and fight for each other. Most importantly, I want them to stay humble,” he elaborated. 

“The players we have this season are all fast learners and willing to adapt to different situations. As long as we keep pulling in the same direction, another unbeaten season is not beyond us.”  

Sarah, who acknowledged that she has improved as a player since joining the Sailors in the off-season, is determined to become a WPL champion with the club, and a win over Hougang would bring her closer to achieving that goal. 

“The regularity and intensity of the training sessions are the biggest differences between here and my former team. I feel I’ve improved in terms of my technical abilities and tactical know-how of the game, and I want to get even better as a player – my target is to contribute more assists and  goals to the team,” said the 17-year-old winger. 

“As a team, we have made a good start and we’re now focused on beating Hougang. The ultimate target is to be champions, and the whole team is very motivated for that.”


2024/25 SPL title tilt begins 10 May against Hougang 

Mark your calendars for Friday, the 10th of May, Sailors fans. 

That is when the Lion City Sailors will kick off their 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign, as they take on Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

This match will come six days after the Sailors’ SPL Community Shield clash against last season’s league winners Albirex Niigata (S) on Saturday, 4 May at the same venue. 

The first home game of the season for Aleksandar Ranković’s men will be on the following Saturday, 18 May, when they host a refreshed Young Lions outfit at Bishan Stadium. 

The 2023 Singapore Cup champions will then fly to Brunei to play Brunei DPMM at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium at Bandar Seri Begawan on Saturday, 15 June, before hosting Albirex – this time in the league – the following Sunday, on 23 June. 

The fixture list for the 2024/25 SPL season was officially announced by the Football Association of Singapore on Friday afternoon (12 April). 

With the league changing from a three-round format to four, the Sailors will play a total of 32 SPL matches. The Sailors’ last match of the season will see them take on BG Tampines Rovers on Saturday, 24 May, 2025.

The Sailors’ full SPL fixtures list for the new season can be accessed here.


Sailors sign pair of Australian brothers to bolster striking ranks

The Lion City Sailors have signed brothers Obren and Novak Kljajić to bolster their striking options for the upcoming 2024/25 campaign. 

Obren will fill the second of three permitted Under-21 foreign players’ slots for the Sailors’ Singapore Premier League (SPL) squad, while Novak will primarily feature for the club’s Under-21s side. 

The Australians both stand at 1.86m tall, and bring similar qualities to the Sailors – versatility across the front line, and a keen eye for goal. 

Obren comes with experience playing in the Serbian SuperLiga with FK Voždovac, and was part of Brisbane Roar’s Under-21 side, on top of being a former Bosnia Under-18 international. 

The 20-year-old first trained with the Sailors in the 2023 pre-season and having enjoyed that stint, he had no qualms coming over again when he got an offer from the club this off-season. 

“I was pretty stoked to get the call to come back as I feel there’s unfulfilled business for me in Singapore with the Sailors,” said the energetic left-footed forward, who played for Peninsula Power in the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland – a level below the professional A-League.  

“It’s great to be teammates with Bailey (Wright), who played for the Australia national team. We’ve some top-quality players here, and I’m already looking forward to the start of the season.”

Meanwhile, Novak – two years younger than Obren – played for Brisbane Roar at the Under-16 level, and has represented Queensland Lions in the NPL for the past two seasons alongside former Sailors forward Andy Pengelly.

“I’m excited to get this chance at a big club like the Sailors, where there are great facilities, amazing coaches and great people. I want to become a more all-rounded player here and contribute to good things for the club,” he said.


Sailors add depth with signing of young Spanish left-back Sergio Carmona

The Lion City Sailors have signed Spanish teenage left-back Sergio Carmona Pérez for the upcoming 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. 

Blessed with speed, a strong physique, and good technical abilities, the 19-year-old will fill the first of three permitted Under-21 foreign players’ slots for the Sailors’ SPL squad, and provide competition for Christopher van Huizen in the starting left-back spot. 

Carmona most recently played for AD Unión Adarve in the fourth-tier of Spanish football, making three Segunda Federación appearances in the ongoing 2023/24 season. 

Prior to that, he was in Alcorcón’s age-group teams till the Under-19 level, and also represented CD Toledo in the Spanish fifth division. 

And ultimately, it was a burning desire to carve out a successful professional footballing career that led Carmona to the Lion City. 

“When I got the offer from the Sailors, I didn’t think twice, because I’ve always been playing on youth contracts in Spain,” the Madrid-born defender said. “I want this chance to prove that I’m capable of becoming a professional footballer, and I feel this is the right place to show my credentials.” 

Having already started in a couple of pre-season friendlies, Carmona is determined to push hard for minutes in the Sailors’ starting 11, and help the team achieve success in the coming season. 

“The level is extremely high in this team; we’ve players like Bart Ramselaar, Toni Datković and Maxime Lestienne, who have played at the highest level in Europe. I can learn so much from these players and I want to show my qualities for this team,” said the youngster, who once came up against Manchester United star Alejandro Garnacho in an Under-15 league match between Alcorcón and Atletico Madrid.

“I’ve a good left foot and can play the ball out of defence, so I can definitely contribute to this team. I want to earn as many minutes as possible for the first team, and be part of a squad that wins all the titles in Singapore.”