The Courts Young Lions just about deserved to secure a second successive win in a scrappy S.League match where neither side were able to convincingly dictate for long periodsSherif El-Masri secured three points for the Courts Young Lions against a distinctly average Gombak United side at the Jalan Besar Stadium in a match that ended 1-0.
Both the Young Lions and Gombak were on the back of morale-boosting victories against Tanjong Pagar United and Geylang United respectively.
The Young Lions trounced Tanjong Pagar United 5-0 away from home less than a week ago to lift themselves off the foot of the table. Gombak, meanwhile, secured a 2-0 win against Geylang following a narrow loss to defending champions Tampines Rovers.
The opening exchanges were scrappy but Young Lions winger Sheriff El-Masri began imposing his presence down the left flank early. Gombak had speculative long-range opportunities that were mostly ineffectual.
It was Gombak’s inability to retain possession in the final third that caused them to fall behind in the 12th minute after a counter-attack allowed El-Masri to score from a header from two yards out.
Just a minute later Gombak could have equalised, with captain and defender Obadin Aikhena connecting well to a cross from a corner, but his effort was cleared off the line by Young Lions captain Hafiz Sujad.
The Young Lions could have doubled their lead from a free-kick at the edge of the area that found defender Al-Qaasimy Rahman at the exact spot which El-Masri scored from, but his header flew high and wide.
Against the run of play, Gombak could have equalised in the 27th minute but a lacklustre shot by Walid Lounis from a corner found the wrong side of the post.
Just five minutes later a delightful exchange of passes between Shahfiq Ghani and Fazli Ayob found an unmarked El-Masri but his effort flashed harmlessly wide of the goal.
By this time Gombak looked in disarray - and the Young Lions seemed more like the side that were five places above their opponents in the S.League than the other way round.
Then out from nowhere, a mostly anonymous Gombak striker Jung Hee Bong made a nice flick on to team-mate Hafiz Rahim, who conjured up an excellent shot outside the penalty box that rattled the crossbar of Syazwan Buhari.
Gombak’s long-ball approach, clearly ineffective in the first half, was discarded by coach K Balagumaran in the second.
And in the opening minutes after the break they looked to be on the ascendancy, although none of the efforts particularly threatened goalkeeper Syazwan.
Passing was poor and creativity lacking from both sides - so it was hardly surprising that Young Lions coach Robin Chitrakar brought on striker Jonathan Toto for some extra firepower up front.
The game finally sprang into life again in the 72nd minute, after Young Lions centre-back Sirina Camara’s cross evaded the head of Lounis and found Shahfiq Ghani, who ended up colliding with Gombak goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam instead.
Tunisian-born Lounis then had a chance to redeem himself in the penalty box just over two minutes later, but squandered his opportunity to equalise for Gombak.
Hafiz Rahim then thought he had a decent claim for a penalty in the 83rd minute but referee W Ravisanthiran, unimpressed, waved for him to get up.
It was in the 89th minute that Hafiz had arguably the best chance from Gombak, pouncing after a fantastic flick on from Bong, but he only managed to shoot straight at Syazwan.
From then on the Young Lions tried to run down the three minutes of stoppage time by keeping the ball close to the corner flag. Gombak, by then, were out of ideas - and would leave Jalan Besar after the final whistle went without any points.