The Lion City Sailors Women’s Team missed the opportunity to seize top spot from Albirex Niigata (S) in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL), as they were held to a 1-1 draw with the White Swans at Yishun Stadium on Sunday (18 June) evening. 

The reigning WPL champions had led for the majority of the game and looked set to claim an important victory to leapfrog Albirex to the summit of the 10-team standings, but were foiled by a late equaliser.

The result means the Sailors remain second behind the White Swans on goal difference, with Head Coach Yeong Sheau Shyan lamenting the first points her Sailors have dropped this season. 

“It was a bit disappointing not to win, especially since we were leading until the last part of the match, and we had so many chances too. I think our young players created many chances, but were unfortunate not to convert them,” she said. 

The Sailors put out a strong lineup, with playmaker Venetia Lim starting in the heart of midfield while goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati Rosman got the nod for her first start in 2023. 

After dominating early proceedings, the Sailors took a deserved lead in the 18th minute with Nur Izzati Rosni converting a penalty with consummate confidence after Khairunnisa Khairol Anwar was brought down in the area.

Albirex did go close before half time, but Dini Dannisha’s header was repelled by Wati. 

The Sailors created several chances after the break but just could not put those away. 

Miray Altun found herself in a promising position in the 64th minute but could only shoot into the side netting. Then substitutes 15-year-old Ardhra Arul Ganeswaran and 16-year-old Josephine Ang came on to carve out a few good openings, but were unable to net that important second goal.

It seemed like the match was done and dusted, but Albirex’s Tina Afrida Nasmi scored to level the score three minutes into injury time.

Captain Ernie Sulastri Sontaril drew several positives despite the dropped points.

“We should have closed the game with the chances we created today, but we didn’t and, disappointingly, we conceded a goal too. The upside is that we were not complacent today, pushed through till the end and showed a lot of fighting spirit,” she said. 

“We played very well today, especially in terms of holding our backline, but luck was not on our side. We now need to rest and recover well, analyse this game, and see what we can improve on,” added the 33-year-old. 

Sheau Shyan shared similar sentiments.

“All the clubs are challenging us, and we cannot be complacent if we want to retain the title. We need to focus on our weaknesses and improve on them, especially in terms of scoring more goals,” she said.

“We are in a good position to win the title, so I am hopeful we can maintain the momentum, and furthermore, we have several good young players coming up to the team.”

Watching the young ones come through and get WPL game time is a source of optimism for Ernie, who is also captain of the National Women’s Team.

“Bringing in the young players in the second half is important, both to expose them to higher levels of competition in the WPL and also to bring out their potential. I’m proud of how they’ve performed so far, and I’m confident they will continue to improve,” said Ernie, who is confident that the Sailors will continue to get better as a team. 

“We will work on our finishing in the coming weeks for our preparation because we know our opponents will sit back when they face us. We have to be able to find space in our opponent’s half and get better at converting our chances.”

The Lion City Sailors Women’s team will look to return to winning ways against Balestier Khalsa this Sunday (25 June) evening at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.