When the final whistle was blown at the Clementi Stadium, the stands erupted in wild cheers before chants of “Campeones” rang out, lauding the eleven players that made up the entire matchday squad of the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team on Sunday (5 November).
The evening’s resounding 11-0 victory over Geylang International saw the women seal the Deloitte Women’s Premier League title for the second year running, and there was a mix of joy and relief.
The team weathered a tough 2023, losing several players to long-term injuries while others headed overseas on football scholarships. The Sailors have had to dig deep several times all season, with last night proving a unique challenge – the women only managed 11 players on the day, and not all of them were fully fit.
“I already told the players that we should enjoy these two matches because for the whole season, we’ve been struggling with different challenges,” said Head Coach Yeong Sheau Shyan, who was effusive with praise for her players.
The Sailors got off to an energetic start, with Lila Tan taking two shots at goal and Josephine Ang hitting the woodwork.
“Initially, it was quite hard to break down the defence because they packed the middle,” said captain Ho Hui Xin. “I told the team at the start that if there is a half-chance, we have to take it.”
The team’s patient build-up play was rewarded in the 12th minute after Julia Farr hammered in the opening goal from the left flank.
Still working through rehabilitation for a knee injury, the early goal provided the German a big confidence boost.
“I haven’t played a full match in a while and knowing I could get some tackles did make me a bit nervous,” said Julia. “But everybody was amazingly supportive, kept pushing me, helping me and cheering me — that helped tremendously.”
In the 20th minute, fullback-turned-centre back Nur Syazwani Ruzi sent a delightful through-ball to Miray Altun on the right flank, beating the entire Eagles defence. Miray calmly slotted home the Sailors’ second goal of the night.
A Geylang handball in the box gave the Sailors a 32nd-minute penalty, with Josephine converting from the spot to pick up her first goal of the evening. She later scored another two goals to snag her first WPL hat-trick.
Josephine is now the team’s third-highest scorer with seven goals, only behind Miray who has eight and Nur Izzati Rosni who netted 12.
“I think that we are really a team,” Sheau Shyan said. “We are passing the ball around trying to find the free player. It’s not about who is a good goal-scorer, but who is in the correct position.”
Before half-time, Julia bagged another goal while Lila capitalised on a smart switch in play to send the Sailors 5-0 up going into the break.
“It was definitely such a good feeling, especially after coming back from a five-month injury break,” said Julia, after her two-goal showing. “I just kept telling myself: do what you can and try to enjoy the game. Try to help the team and keep it simple. Focus on the basics and then see what I can do.”
In the second half, skipper Hui Xin and mid-season signing Nica Siy each picked up their first goals of the season. The Sailors now boast 19 different goal-scorers in this season, testament to the depth and clinical finishing across the entire squad.
Teenager Madelin Lock also got herself on the scoresheet in the 58th minute, after a solid performance in the Sailors midfield. The 16-year-old played a big role in relentlessly switching plays across both flanks, consistently opening up pockets of space for her teammates.
Miray then secured a brace for herself after firing a spectacular shot into the top corner in the 71st minute.
“Everybody knows their roles and responsibilities,” Hui Xin said. “As captain, I only had to remind everybody about the game plan, because everybody carried their weight tonight.”
Looking ahead, Hui Xin acknowledged that their next match against Hougang United, currently ranked third in the league, a fortnight later on 19 November will be a stern test.
“At the end of the day, we are a team and can be very proud to have overcome so many different challenges and obstacles this year,” added Julia.
“We always believed that we could win the league again and, after a lot of hard work from everyone, here we are.”