With six wins out of six this season, and a whopping 36 goals scored, the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team have clearly shown that they deserve to be where they are in the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) table — right at the very top.

Their success, however, has not just been predicated on the team’s ruthlessness in front of goal. With just one goal conceded so far — which came against title rivals Albirex Niigata (S) in a 2-1 win in March — the Sailors’ defence has played its part in the team’s impressive start to their campaign.

According to Sailors wing-back Khairunnisa Anwar, the solidity of the team’s defence can be attributed to their discipline, both in and out of possession.

“We’ve been moving together as one defensive line, ensuring that there are no gaps for attackers to exploit,” she explained.

“Each player covers for their teammates by providing support and protection in case someone is beaten or pulled out of position. This level of discipline requires constant communication, anticipation of opponents’ movements, as well as a strong understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.”

It helps that some of the team’s more experienced players, including captain Umairah Hamdan and vice-captain Nur Syazwani Ruzi, play in defence, allowing them to mentor the younger players in the backline.

As a result, players like Seri Nurinsyirah and Tyan Foong — who were recently promoted from the academy to the senior squad — along with Tia Foong, have benefited and flourished under the leadership and guidance of Umairah and Wani.

This is especially important as maintaining a strict, defensive shape, while pressing the opponents high up the pitch, requires every member of the Sailors backline to be focused and on the same wavelength.

“Maintaining defensive shape is a key instruction for the defenders. Even when we play with a back three, it’s crucial for them to stay compact and organised to make it difficult for opponents to create scoring opportunities,” the 21-year-old shared.

“We also focus a lot on bypassing opposition lines by playing out from the back. By having a high-pressure attacking style, it means we have a lot of space to bring the ball out, so we’re encouraged to initiate attacks from deep.”

One tactical shift that Sailors Women Head Coach Daniel Ong has made this season is to line up with a back-three, which allows them to play on the front-foot and try to win the ball in the opponent’s half.

This has enabled the Sailors’ attack to thrive, as forward Cara Chang elaborated, “We have a lot of trust in our defenders’ ability to regain possession.

“As such, we’re a lot less worried about losing the ball, so we are more confident in trying new things. Paired with the strength of our defence, our new formation has helped us to score more goals as we are now attacking with more players.”

Up next for the Sailors is a clash against eighth-placed BG Tampines Rovers on Saturday (18 May) evening at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

This will be the Sailors’ last match before a month-long break, and while the team is on a good run of form, both Cara and Nisa have warned against complacency.

“We remain fully focused on the next game and have maintained our intensity in training throughout the week. We are determined to extend our winning run, and we are absolutely committed to avoiding any hint of complacency,” declared 15-year-old Cara.

Echoing Cara’s sentiment, Nisa added, “We’ve been focusing on our high pressing, pushing up the wingers and fullbacks. Hopefully it’ll disrupt the opponent’s build-up play, force turnovers in dangerous areas, and create scoring opportunities for us.”