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.”