The match at Jalan Besar Stadium was an ill-tempered affair as three players were sent off, including SAFFC defenders Daniel Bennett and Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, as well as Young Lions forward Haniff Ja’ffar Sadique.
Shahfiq Ghani’s well-placed shot right before half-time and an Aqhari Abdullah free kick on 67 minutes were enough to overturn SAFFC’s opener through Fazrul Nawaz.
The result secured the Young Lions’ third win in a row and their sixth of the season, as they appear to be turning the corner after a tough start to the campaign.
Despite the unsavoury red card that left them finishing with ten men, the Young Lions will be pleased with their best run of form in recent memory, and to win without regulars like Jonathan Toto, Sherif El-Masri, Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman and Faris Ramli was even sweeter.
For SAFFC, in contrast, it was a night to forget.
This was a match that they were expected to win comfortably, considering their form in all competitions since their return to action from the international break in early June.
Holding substantial possession throughout the match was not enough for them, however, as they lacked the quality in the final third and failed to deliver the killer ball.
At the back, the story read equally poorly as the much-needed concentration was absent, and they immediately conceded a goal after taking the lead.
Their discipline was also called into question as six different players found themselves in referee K. Kalimuthu’s book at the end of the 90 minutes.
“I think a lot of guys were off colour today,” said Warriors coach Richard Bok.
“It may be overconfidence, maybe it is complacency, since the Courts Young Lions are without a few players. In a team of eleven, maybe one or two can be off, but certainly not more than half!
“Ever since we started the second round, I thought we played well, we defended and kept the ball well. Today was entirely the opposite.
“Hopefully this is just a one-off event. We’ll regroup and look forward to the League Cup.”
The visitors controlled the ball from the start as Mislav Karoglan fired a warning shot to start the match in the sixth minute.
That was one of the lucky times a shot was actually produced to finish the attack, though.
Most of the time, SAFFC’s attacks simply broke down before a ball could be delivered into the area. For all the possession they had, the Warriors could not convert them into chances.
The best chance of the half for them probably came on 25 minutes when Fazrul managed to slip the ball to Tatsuro Inui in a crowded penalty box, but with so many players covering, it was expectedly blocked.
The Young Lions had their odd chance at the other end, with Aqhari volleying weakly before Inui’s chance.
A mundane first half badly needed a goal, and it finally came a minute before the break.
Karoglan danced his way into the area before squaring the ball to the lurking Fazrul, who had the easiest of tasks to tap the ball in from six yards out for his seventh goal of the season.
While the Young Lions defence was suspect on that occasion for not closing Karoglan down or keeping an eye on Fazrul, the Warriors fared little better.
The Choa Chu Kang-based outfit had been developing a habit of letting goals in immediately after scoring, and this match was no different.
A cross was floated into the area by Nazrul Ahmad Nazari from the right in the Young Lions’ first retaliatory attack, and Shahfiq was left unmarked on the penalty spot to restore parity almost immediately.
The second half was a stark contrast to the first 45 minutes, as SAFFC attempted to take the lead again.
Inui’s free kick on 49 minutes was punched clear by Syazwan Buhari at an awkward height, but fortunately for the 18-year-old, Shimpei Sakurada’s follow-up shot was straight at him.
The pace was much faster by now, and while SAFFC still held most of the possession, the Young Lions looked more threatening in their counterattacks.
It was from such a break that they were able to score their second goal on 67 minutes. Benjamin Lee’s strong run was halted at the edge of the area by hard challenges from the SAFFC defence, with Marin Vidosevic adjudged to have been the guilty party.
The free kick that came was indeed in a dangerous position, but it still took a quality touch from Aqhari to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner of Shahril Jantan’s goal to give the Young Lions a 2-1 lead.
SAFFC expectedly poured men forward, but before they could muster an attempt at goal, they suffered another setback.
Zulfadli, who had collected a yellow card very early in the game, committed another hard foul as the Young Lions were able to start another counterattack, and Kalimuthu did not hesitate to pull out the red card.
Despite going a man down, the visitors were still able to maintain possession, with Karoglan’s shot blocked by a covering defender after he was put through by Fazrul on 79 minutes.
Just a minute later, the Croatian put his strike partner through, but the latter was wasteful and blasted over the bar from a good position.
Karoglan had another shot saved on 85 minutes, with Fazrul caught offside by the rebound.
All hope of a draw was then lost for the Warriors when Bennett and Young Lions substitute Haniff kicked out at each other on the ground in a messy injury-time tangle.
Kalimuthu rightly sent both players off.
Despite losing a man to a red card, Young Lions head coach Robin Chitrakar was a happy man at the post-match interview as he paid tribute to the team’s fighting spirit and determination.
“The boys really stood up and fought hard for the win,” he told sleague.com.
“The key was the willingness to win, and that was shown the way we poured forward after we conceded. SAFFC are a strong side, but we performed above expectations, and the boys who stepped in were determined to do the same job as they did in the previous match.
“We have to keep the boys’ feet on the ground. It is easy to get carried away after results like these, so we have to keep them focused in the coming games.”
Article taken from sleague.com, written by Koh Yizhe
CYL Line up:
Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Abdul Hameed, Sirina Camara, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Shamil Sharif (Zulfahmi Arifin 55″), Aqhari Abdullah, Benjamin Lee, Nazrul Nazari (Fazli Ayob 76″), Shahfiq Ghani, Syafiq Zainal (Haniff Sadique 67″)