Home United Under-18 reminded NFA Under-16 that it would not be easy should they ever have the thoughts of dethroning the defending Champions this year when they came back from behind twice in the game, to ensure the share of spoils (3-3) with the current league leaders at the Singapore Sports School on Sunday evening.
It was viewed by many, as the top of the table clash, considering both sides come into this encounter both on 100% records, having won their opening five games in succession.
The elites from the National Football Academygot themselves off to a flying start eleven minute into the game, with Adam Swandi, the current leading scorer for the league, at the right place, right time. Home United’s custodian Murtadza Rahim failed to hold onto a seemingly harmless shot by Amirul Adli in the six yard box. Adam made no mistake hooking the rebound into the top right hand corner of the Home United goal for his 11th goal of the season.
NFA were cruising, and everyone would have thought that the young Protectors would suffer the similar fates of other teams before them. However, the Cubs’ joy was short-lived, and Hairil Amin’s boys responded with a well taken goal.
Khamarul Majid swung in a cross which deceived everyone, and V Ghanisheelan timed his run to perfection, before gliding the ball home from five yards out to bring the score line to one apiece.
Home United then went ahead five minutes later. This time, it was first goal provider Khamarul who got to the end of a lovely cross by Luqman Ismail, before he sent Elfi Shahrul gasping for thin air as the powerful header found the back of the net.
The young Protectors were in cloud nine from that goal, and it was well deserved. They had been soaking up the pressure from the Cubs prior to the two goals scored, and it paid off for them as they found the back of the net with their first two shots on target for the afternoon.
NFA made an early substitution and that change proved to be a crucial one in the end. Rashe Rahman came on for Azhar Ramli who was having a quiet afternoon in the 32nd minute and Rashe almost repaid his coach’s faith immediately after coming on, but could only shoot into the side netting after he was released through on goal by Amirul Adli. Rashe again came close to leveling the score 10 minutes later, but again, he found his shot ending up on the side nettings.
The young Protectors lost their lead after the restart due to some mis-communication and hesitation ten minutes after the restart. The back line seemed hesitant in clearing a long ball up front, and that allowed Zulfadmi to capitalize by squaring the ball for Rashe, who made no mistakes from six yards for the equalizer. That was Rahse’s third goal this season.
Both teams were cautious after the score were tied at 2-2 and it was evident that both were not taking any chances for a slip up that would mattered so much in their quest for the championships.
Iqram Rifqi thought that he had given NFA the lead, but his goal was wrongly ruled out for offside by the match officials. Receiving the ball wide on the left, Iqram went on an individual run, before sending in a cross shot that sailed over Murtadza, without any NFA player infringing play. The match official shocked everyone on the ground, by awarding a free kick to the Protectors, citing that a NFA player was in an offside position when the ball was delivered.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 82nd minute, and it was R Aaravin who was credited with the goal. His goal bound free kick was deflected narrowly wide for a corner kick. Zulfadmi sent in a perfect cross, for the NFA number five, to plant an unstoppable header into the top right hand corner of the net for their lead.
Home United were dejected by that goal but they did not give up fighting. They got their due rewards when R Aaravin handled the ball in the 18 yard box in probably the last minute of the game. Aaravin had slide in trying to block a cross by Yan Zarizal but the ball went out of play off Aaravin’s arm and the match official showed no hesitation in awarding the spot kick.
Luqman Ismail stepped up to send substitute goalkeeper Tham Yong Jun the wrong way, and maintained his side’s unbeaten record in the league so far this season.
Home United head coach Hairil Amin, present with the team despite being ill since middle of last week laments that individual mistakes led to the team’s failure to grab all three points in the game.
“I think this is two points lost for us,” he said.
“We could have done better had the players turn up more regularly for trainings”
“We are a brand new team, and some of the boys were not playing in the Centre of Excellence leagues at all prior to this. However, they tried their best and did all that they could. As you can see, the commitments of the players never died.”
“The goals conceded were a result of individual mistakes, and I believe that the boys will do better in the next game. They will learn. After all, they did what they could,” Hairil added
Taking last minute spot kicks was not something new for Luqman Ismail, the hero of the day as he stood up confidently to seal the point for the Protectors.
“I made sure I go through the standard procedure of taking penalties in training before the game day and I have always done that.”
“This is not the only occasion that I had to do this, I did that against Balestier (Khalsa) earlier in the season too” said the player who has four goals to his name to date.
Despite stealing the points off the Cubs, Luqman is certain that his mates will not get too carried away by the result.
“We worked very hard and I thought my team mates played really well. We will work even harder to get the results that we need to overtake (NFA Under-16) at the top of the table.”
For league tables and top scorers’ charts, please click here.