The Lion City Sailors Women go into the month-long international break with a resounding 6-1 victory over Tampines Rovers in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) on Sunday (27 August).
Boosted by the return of Head Coach Yeong Sheau Shyan and skipper Ernie Sulastri Sontaril, the Sailors turned in a dominating performance at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, with five players – including teenagers Josephine Ang and Cara Chang – getting their names on the score sheet.
Young guns from the Sailors’ pipeline are turning in consistent performances in a team defending their WPL title, and Sheau Shyan believes this augurs well for the future, especially because of how the team has come together to help these young ones grow.
“Our senior players have been very helpful, they are really leading the team and bringing in the younger girls. This has been one big factor that has helped the younger ones – who are already good technical players – settle down really quickly,” said Sheau Shyan, speaking after the win that cements the Sailors’ position atop the 10-team WPL standings.
With 34 points from 12 matches, the Sailors remain four points ahead of second-placed Albirex Niigata (S) and eight in front of third-placed Hougang United.
“The young ones are now building the confidence to attack and I’m very impressed with the way they play and how they give their 100% every game throughout the 90 minutes,” added Ernie.
It was one of the young guns who set the Sailors on their way on the evening. Driving down the left flank, Cara pummelled the ball into the roof of the net to make it 1-0 in the first minute of the match.
After seeing one chance after another go to waste in the next half an hour, it came all at once for the Sailors.
Josephine extended the lead in the 38th minute, her right-wing cross-shot dipping into the top corner of the Stags’ goal.
14-year-old Cara then put the Sailors 3-0 up with her second goal of the night two minutes later, with a cool finish after Izzati Rosni’s shot was parried into her path.
Several fouls were given by both sides in a feistier second half.
Izzati’s free kick in the 50th minute may have hit the crossbar, but she made no mistake a minute later by netting a penalty won by Cara who was a constant threat to the Tampines defence – and she did it in style with dispatching it with nonchalant no-look effort two minutes later.
As the game passed the hour mark, Lila Tan got in on the action, capitalising on a mistake by the Tampines defence with an easy finish to make it 5-0.
Tampines pulled a goal back through Farhanah Ruhaizat in the 82nd minute. The Stags attacker became the first player to score against Sailors goalkeeper Beatrice Tan this season with her scuffed finish off a long punt catching the Sailors defence off-guard.
Any hope of a dramatic comeback was quashed by Sailors skipper Ernie in the 90th minute. The 35-year-old’s freekick from just outside the Tampines box curled right into the top corner and her first goal of the season made her the 16th different goalscorer in the Sailors’ squad this season.
“It’s very rare for me to want to take a free kick but I have been practicing from that area with my one-on-one coach so I felt more confident,” said Ernie. “I thought, ‘let me try and take this’. I think the training was worth it.”
The win also marks the final game for Natasha Naszri, who is set to leave for Spain under an Unleash The Roar! football scholarship. The youngster came on to replace Ho Hui Xin with 20 minutes to go.
“I’m really sad to leave the club I’ve been with for five years but to go overseas is a good opportunity for me to grow. I’ve learned a lot about attitude and discipline here at the Sailors, and those are things I will take with me to Spain,” said Natasha.
“I will miss my friends and coaches and also the fans for being there and supporting me throughout the years.”
While sad to see her go, Ernie was delighted that Natasha can join the growing list of young Singaporean female footballers venturing abroad.
Said Ernie: “Natasha’s at this young age, and it’s a good chance for her to learn as much as she can in Spain. They’ve got top teams and have just won the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and I believe she can grow as a player in Spain and become a top player for Singapore.”
The Sailors will next see WPL action on Sunday 15 October, when they line up against fifth-placed Tanjong Pagar United.