Any fears that the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team’s season would be derailed following their shock 2-1 defeat to Geylang International last Sunday (23 June) were well and truly put to rest, as Daniel Ong’s charges got back to winning ways with an emphatic 13-0 win over Tiong Bahru FC at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Saturday (30 June) evening.

With Albirex Niigata (S) hot on their tails in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL), the Sailors Women knew they could ill-afford to drop points in this one. 

Nonetheless, Head Coach Daniel continued to place his trust in the club’s youth players, even handing a debut to 14-year-old Nur Ain Salleh – the first female scholar from the Lion City Sailors Football Academy’s Elite Development Programme.

And it was Ain, lining up on the right side of attack, who opened the scoring for the Sailors after just five minutes.

Receiving a pass from Dorcas Chu, the teenager took a touch to steady herself before slamming a fierce drive past the goalkeeper into the far corner.  

Ain scoring so early on her debut may have come as a surprise to some fans in the stands, but Daniel insists he always had full confidence in her ability to make an impact on the team.

“She has been training with us for some time now, so her goal was not a surprise to us. We know what she is capable of, and in fact, she can perform much better than what she did today,” Daniel said after the game.

The early lead signalled the start of a relentless onslaught by the Sailors, as they launched wave after wave of attack on the Tiong Bahru goal. And the Sailors’ sustained pressure finally paid off in a devastating seven-minute spell, during which they scored four goals without reply.

First, forward Raeka Ee raced onto a through ball into the box, and calmly picked her spot past the despairing dive of the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute. 

That was her 12th goal of the season as she pulled level with Albirex’s Manami Fukuzawa at the top of the WPL scoring chart. 

Barely two minutes later, Nur Sarah Zu’risqha won possession in the Tiong Bahru box and  curled a shot into the far corner to make it 3-0 to the Sailors.

Dorcas then made it four with a long-range shot, before Sarah got her second of the game with a tap-in, giving the Sailors a five-goal lead in the 26th minute.

With the Tiong Bahru defence still reeling from the rapid succession of goals, Sarah capitalised to complete her hat-trick in the 32nd minute, pouncing on a loose ball in the box and calmly slotting it into the back of the net.

Now full of confidence, Sarah went on to score two more goals – one on the stroke of half-time and another just after the break – to take her tally this season to an impressive eight goals.

Reflecting on her prolific performance, the 17-year-old winger remarked, “I’m surprised I scored five goals tonight. Normally, I’m the one crossing the ball and creating opportunities for my teammates. 

“But this week in training, we focused heavily on our attacking positioning and getting into better scoring positions — I believe it paid off, as I had plenty of chances today.”

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with the Sailors pressing forward in search of goals while limiting Tiong Bahru to speculative shots from range.

Sailors substitute Josephine Ang needed just five minutes to open her account in the game, pouncing on a deflected pass into the box and coolly directing a shot past the stranded Tiong Bahru goalkeeper.

Josephine then scored her second of the night after heading home Nurhidayu Naszri’s pinpoint cross, before curling a 66th-minute free-kick over the wall and into the back of the net to complete her hat-trick in style. 

Incredibly, this was not the first time this season that Josephine has come off the bench to score a hat-trick, having done the same in the historic 18-0 win over Balestier Khalsa last month.

When asked about the competition for places in a squad filled with attacking talent, she explained, “Even though it’s challenging to secure a spot on this team, my teammates and coaches provide me with great motivation. So every time I come off the bench, I’m focused on giving my best for the team.”

Further goals from captain Umairah Hamdan and substitute Cara Chang added a touch of gloss to the scoreline for the Sailors, who have now completed the double over Tiong Bahru this season.

Despite securing a comprehensive win and increasing their goal difference, Daniel believes there is still room for further improvement from his team.

“Today we saw some positive movement, and combinations between the players, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he reflected. “Nonetheless, I trust everyone in this squad, regardless of their age.”

The win moves the Sailors three points ahead of their closest rivals, Albirex, who face Geylang International on Sunday (30 June) night. The Sailors and Albirex will meet head-to-head on 20 July at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.