Barely a week after witnessing Gabriel Quak score a goal that was deemed worthy of being nominated for the Puskas award, Lion City Sailors midfielder Diego Lopes submitted an entry of his own with an equally stunning strike against Hougang United last evening.
Receiving the ball at the edge of the box from a Faris Ramli throw-in, Diego swivelled and volleyed a shot with his right foot that seemingly defied the laws of physics, as it curled outwards and dipped into the top corner of the net.
🤯 𝗗𝗜𝗘𝙂𝙊-𝙇𝘼𝙕𝙊 ‼️
What have you done, Diego Lopes?! 💣 A 𝒓𝒊𝒅𝒊𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒐𝒖𝒔 hit from the @lioncitysailors star last night! #SPL #GameOn
cc: @FIFAcom Puskas Award panel pic.twitter.com/F4IqKzd3gg
— Singapore Premier League (@SGPremierLeague) April 25, 2021
It was a goal that left the crowd at the Hougang Stadium in stunned silence for a moment. But a collective gasp of wonderment soon followed once fans finally processed the moment of magic they had just witnessed.
The 69th minute goal, which was reminiscent of Papiss Cisse’s wonder strike for Newcastle United against Chelsea in 2012, was enough for the Sailors to clinch all three points as Aurelio Vidmar’s men ran out 1-0 winners over the Cheetahs.
That such a magnificent goal proved to be the winner was apt – against a tight and compact Hougang side, the Sailors had struggled to create clear-cut chances against the home team all throughout the game.
It needed something special to break down the stubborn Hougang defence. And Diego was more than happy to provide it.
Reflecting on Diego’s wonder goal, Sailors captain Hassan Sunny praised the Brazilian for stepping up to the plate when it mattered.
Said Hassan: “It was a very good goal. With the quality that he has, he is always capable of scoring these kinds of goals, so you know it’s not a fluke.
“The whole team knows how important it is that Diego plays at his best, because he can win games for the team. This goal against Hougang showed us just why he is worth so much.”
Last night’s victory over Hougang was especially significant for the Sailors, given that they had lost 1-3 to the same opponents at the Jalan Besar Stadium a month ago.
While underlining the importance of getting one over Hougang – who had started the match level on points with the Sailors – Hassan also highlighted that defensive solidity played a huge role in the victory.
“It’s a massive three points,” Hassan, who made several fine stops to keep a clean sheet last evening, declared. “And it is always tough to play Hougang at their home ground. They were very compact and defensively solid, so we had to be very patient with our attacks.
“We have also improved defensively in the last few games. But it’s not just the backline that deserves praise. The entire team did their part to defend last night, starting from Stipe (Plazibat) and Diego, so it was hard for Hougang to break us down too.
“So, while we lost to Hougang back in the first round when we were not at our best, I’m very happy that we managed to get the win over them this time.”
With the victory, the Sailors moved to the top of the table for at least 24 hours – Albirex Niigata who are also on 17 points, but with a game in hand, take on Balestier Khalsa on Sunday evening. The Sailors’ next match, in two weeks’ time on May 9, at the Jalan Besar Stadium, will see them take on Geylang International.
While the Sailors could be bumped back down to second by the time they face Geylang, Hassan believes the team can draw confidence from the fact that they had reached the summit.
“I think we deserve to be at the top with the way we have been playing, and the form we are in,” Hassan explained. “Having reached the top will definitely give us more confidence going into our next game.
“For now, though, it’s a good break for us, so we can continue to work more in training on the areas that we need to improve on.”