Young Lions finally nab first league win in upset over Jaguars
The league's bottom side squandered two penalties but forced the only goal in the 79th minute to register a victory at long last after 19 games without one
By Paul Green
Courts Young Lions finally broke through for their first win of the season on Sunday night when they beat Tanjong Pagar United 1-0 at Queenstown Stadium.
But it was no simple victory as the team coached by Aide Iskandar failed to convert a penalty in each half, the second instance coming after they had got the ball in the net via the boot of Jaguars defender Anthony Aymard.
The game had looked there for the taking with Tanjong Pagar missing their most creative force in suspended playmaker Kamel Ramdani, along with injured vice-captain Walid Lounis and two other long term injuries in captain Hafiz Osman and midfielder Sazali Salleh.
The Young Lions, with the squad large in numbers, nevertheless were without a few key players as well due to national service commitments.
They were also without regular goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari and his tall replacement, Rudy Khairullah, had some trouble communicating with his defenders and a few misunderstandings happened from time to time.
The game was a little scrappy in the first half and both the Tanjong Pagar front men, Monsef Zerka and Ismael Benahmed, had fewer magical moments than usual between them.
Hafiz Nor was his typical lively sense on the flanks but on this occasion, the balance of the team did not seem as strong as it had been in previous games.
There were many corners and freekicks awarded to both sides in the first half, but nothing came of any of them.
That was until Sherif El-Masri showed a clean pair of heels to some of the Jaguars defenders on the left of the area, before cutting inside in the 28th minute.
He came down under a challenge and referee Farhad Mohd pointed to the spot.
The 23-year-old Canadian dusted himself off and took the penalty but with goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson guessing his intentions and diving to his right, perhaps the long-time Young Lions front-runner was put in two minds as he smashed his attempt against the left-hand upright.
That was one let-off and there were others to follow, El-Masri also steering one wide in the 55th minute as the second half got into its stride.
On the hour, a corner by Hafiz was met well by Benahmed with a firm header but it was off target.
A minute later, when Hafiz came down in the area, appeals were made for a penalty but the referee wasn’t interested that time.
Tanjong Pagar enjoyed their strongest part of the game soon after this. A nice cut-back from Zahid Ahmad in the 65th minute following a clever John Wilkinson ball down the line saw Asraf Rashid send in a strong shot that was blocked by a defender.
In the 73rd minute, a Wilkinson screamer was saved by the Rudy with some panache but Zerka, who got to the rebound first, fired well wide of the post.
Young Lions substitute Ignatius Ang, who had come onto the field only moments earlier, then burst past his man down the left and tried a shot from a tight angle in the 79th minute.
Players from both sides went for it together at the near post, but French defender Aymard, in trying to clear, succeeded only in directing the ball into his own net. The Young Lions had the lead at last.
The second penalty was awarded in the 82nd minute and this time Sahil Suhaimi was designated to take it, but he too could not score as Herisson dove to his right to push the ball away.
Despite the miss, the Young Lions hung on for their first win of the season amid much celebration at the final whistle.
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