The Lion City Sailors had winger Faris Ramli to thank after his second-half brace secured a 2-1 win over Young Lions in their final Singapore Premier League (SPL) encounter at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday (21 October) evening. 

It was by no means the most convincing of victories for Luka Lalić’s men, who struggled to find rhythm and were made to rue a number of missed chances throughout. 

A late penalty conversion from Jordan Emaviwe halved the deficit to give Young Lions hope, but the Sailors eventually prevailed. The result meant they finished the season two points behind SPL champions Albirex Niigata (S), who drew 1-1 with Geylang International on the same day. 

Luka admitted his side were not at their best and gave credit to the performance of Nazri Nasir’s Young Lions.  

“I wouldn’t say it was a good win, but a win nonetheless. It was difficult to play against a well-organised and compact Young Lions side, who came with an effective game plan,” said the 35-year-old. 

“We could have scored more today but like in recent matches, we conceded again and I’m not too happy about that, but we’re all looking forward to the Singapore Cup.”

Seemingly with an eye on their Singapore Cup opener against Balestier Khalsa on Thursday, the Sailors named an all-local starting line-up. 

But without the likes of Song Ui-young and the suspended Maxime Lestienne, the Sailors found it hard to get going in the opening exchanges. 

Faris came close to putting the hosts in front after 20 minutes with an effort that sailed narrowly wide, before Gabriel Quak missed a gilt-edged opportunity when he fired straight at Young Lions goalkeeper Ridhwan Fikri from point-blank range.

At the other end, Emaviwe was a constant thorn in the Sailors defence who were nearly made to pay for their profligacy three minutes before the break. 

With Izwan Mahbud at sea after keeping out Amir Syafiz’s initial shot, Danish Qayyum could only see his left-footed effort crash off the frame of goal. 

Luka’s half-time team talk seemed to work a treat, with the Sailors taking the lead within four minutes of the restart. 

Taking down Hafiz Nor’s beautiful pass from deep, Faris held off his marker before unleashing a crisp shot into Ridhwan’s far post for his fourth goal of the season. 

Buoyed by the opener, the Sailors went in search of a second and could have doubled their advantage.

Gabriel blazed over on the hour mark before Faris’ header pinged off the crossbar after Ridhwan had parried Gabriel’s low drive into his path.   

There was no denying Faris on 66 minutes however, as his cheeky chipped finish gave the Sailors some breathing space. 

Picked out by Izwan’s inch-perfect pass, the Singapore international proceeded to lift the ball over an onrushing Ridhwan to make it 2-0. With that pass, Izwan became the only goalkeeper to register an assist in the 2022 SPL season.  

Emaviwe then smashed home a penalty to set up a nervy finish after skipper Hariss Harun was adjudged to have handled in the box. 

It proved merely a consolation as the Sailors hung on for three points to end their season on a high.

Two-goal hero Faris said the win was a ‘morale booster’ ahead of the Balestier clash.

As a team, we haven’t been at our best in the last few games but we managed to pick ourselves up and we are already looking ahead to our Singapore Cup opener,” he added.

“This year has been a roller-coaster ride for me, I’m happy with my performance thus far, but I know I can do better and I hope it’s not too late to make an impact for the team.”