It was four minutes into stoppage time in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) fixture, and the scoreboard read: Lion City Sailors 0 Tanjong Pagar United 0.
Yeong Sheau Shyan’s Sailors came to Clementi Stadium on Sunday (15 October) with just 13 players, and the injury-ravaged side were given a lifeline when referee Shafiq Ali pointed to the spot.
Right-back Nur Syazwani Ruzi duly converted the penalty, sparking wild celebrations on the pitch as the Sailors picked up a 1-0 win after a seven-week international break.
The win came in a crucial period for the Sailors, who had a depleted squad due to injuries and could only field two substitutes as a result.
Wani – who now has three goals this season – may not have a knack for scoring goals, but she took the responsibility of handing her side the lead with the spot-kick, revealing that the confidence came from the preceding free-kick which led to the penalty.
She had delivered the ball into the box, which found Miray Altun who was then fouled.
“At first I thought we could get a goal from the free kick. And so I had the confidence to take the penalty as well,” the 22-year-old said.
“Penalties are just another obstacle for me in football. I’ve also been practising taking penalties during training. When it went in, I just felt happy we got the three points.”
A relieved Sheau Shyan commended her players for giving their all on the pitch.
“The players delivered what I asked of them, and I’m very proud,” the 45-year-old said.
“This win will give us confidence that even when we’re not at 100 percent, we can still play good football.”
The match got off to a blistering start, with Tanjong Pagar almost taking the lead within a minute.
Nur Faradila Rafidi found teammate Farah Nurzahirah unmarked in the box, but her strike was blocked by Sailors defenders who put their bodies on the line.
The encounter then turned scrappy, with both teams trying to capitalise on errors but to little effect.
The two sides were left snapping at half-chances as the Sailors looked to form a solid backline to prevent their opponents from playing through them.
That included custodian Beatrice Tan, who stood firm in goal and put in a fine goalkeeping performance to help the team keep a clean sheet.
And the breakthrough finally came when Wani placed her penalty into the corner of the net, giving Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper Nurul Haziqah Haszman no chance.
The Sailors’ defensive display did not go unnoticed, with Sheau Shyan and Wani both highlighting the importance of the team remaining tight at the back.
“The urgency was really there today, we knew that we had to protect Beatrice so everyone was going for the ball, fighting for it and trying to keep it as high up the pitch as possible,” Sheau Shyan explained.
Added Wani: “We covered one another well and that’s what we expect from each other. It’s a good effort from the whole team.”
The win was the Sailors’ 12th in 13 matches this season, as they remained four points ahead of nearest challengers Albirex Niigata (S) with five matches left to go.
The reigning WPL champions will be back in action this Sunday as they take on seventh-placed Balestier Khalsa at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.