Singapore Cup: Woodlands Squeeze Through On Spot Kicks

Woodland Wellington's Romanian defender Lucian Dronca scored the winning spot kick in a penalty shootout to see his side go through to the semifinals of the RHB Singapore Cup competition at the expense of visitors Tobacco Monopoly FC.

Jerry Bartholomeusz, Akihiro Nakamura and Fadzuhasny Juraimi converted their spot kicks for Woodlands Wellington while Worawut Wangsawat and Khwanchai Fuangprakob made theirs count.

Both custodians Yazid Yasin and Narit Taweekul made a save each during the shootout; Zahid Ahmad and Pradit Taweechai, who had an excellent match, were the unlucky players to have seen their efforts blocked by the keepers.

Substitute Somchai Hanaeng then ballooned his effort way over the crossbar. Pradit and Somchai’s misses paved the way for Dronca to grab the headlines yet again for the second match in a row.

Tobacco Monopoly FC coach Kawin Kachendecha was understandably disappointed at the end of the game.

He said, “I think we have no luck in this match. We had so many chances to score, maybe about ten or more really good chances, but we could not get a goal.

“But this is football. In penalties, anything can happen,” Kachendecha commented.

Despite the 0-0 scoreline at the end of regulation time, the second leg of the RHB Singapore Cup quarterfinals between Tobacco Monopoly FC and Woodlands Wellington proved to be a much more interesting affair as compared to the first instalment as both sides went for the jugular from the start.

In the 9th minute, dangerman Narong Chansaweak slalomed his way past defenders Lucian Dronca and Jerry Bartholomeusz easily.

However, his dangerous cut-back from the byeline did not find its intended target as the Rams cleared their lines.

On the quarter hour mark, Pradit Taweechai’s corner kick traveled all the way to the other flank as it was picked up by left back Noppol Pitafai.

The defender produced a sweet cross which was headed by striker Manit Noyvach but Rams’ custodian Yazid Yasin produced an acrobatic save to deny the Thais the lead.

In the 22nd minute, Park Tae Won had to be substituted by Kamal Nasir because of an ankle injury he picked up during the game.

It was a bitter blow to the Rams as Park definitely had the skills and the technique to unlock a watertight Tobacco Monopoly defence.

On the hour mark, Noppol produced another dangerous cross from the left flank and it was controlled well by Manit.

He relayed the ball to the unmarked Pradit but the right-back’s ferocious shot did not match up to the approach play beforehand as the ball ended up on the side netting.

Four minutes later, excellent approach play by the Rams led to Ismadi Mukhtar to have space on the right flank to swing in a cross.

Midfielder Akihiro Nakamura sprinted to try to get to the end of the cross but he missed the ball by a whisker.

Captain Jetsada Jitsawad must have produced the gutsiest move of the match by heading the ball back to his custodian.

Narit Taweekul’s quick reflexes must have spared his captain’s blushes because any lapse in concentration could have led to a very embarrassing own goal.

It was the Thais who finished the stronger side just before the interval. Sazali Salleh’s attempted pass was blocked by Noppol.

Again, it was the Noppol – Pradit – Manit combination that wreaked havoc on the Rams’ defence.

A sweeping move by the trio enabled Manit to have acres of space in the Rams’ penalty area but Yazid denied him once again with an excellent save in the one-on-one situation.

Rams’ coach Jorg Steinebrunner tried to switch his wingers Sazali Salleh and Ismadi on either flank to gain more possession of the ball.

The tactic worked as the Rams were doing well enough to create more dangerous openings but Narit was still largely untested in the second half.

The match went to extra-time and it was the Tobaccos that tested Yazid early on.

34-year old Somchai Hanaeng’s long-range scorcher rocked the crossbar as Yazid could only stand still. The ball did come back to the Thai midfielder and his right-footed shot was saved by an outstretched Yazid.

The Rams’ custodian was called into action yet again a few seconds later. Noppol’s low cross was not dealt by Bartholomeusz properly and striker Khwanchai Fuangprakob capitalized on the defender’s mistake.

The striker’s shot was half-parried by Yazid and the ball struck the post, much to the relief of the Rams’ number one.

Steinebrunner brought on Abdelhadi Laakkad as a replacement for Azlan Alipah to spice things up in attack.

The striker, who was recovering from a hamstring injury, showed that he was still not fully match fit by spurning one of his side’s best chances in the match.

In the 108th minute, Sazali Salleh’s nippy run on the left flank enabled him to get behind the opposition defence.

Laakkad contrived to put the ball over the bar from six yards out, much to the dismay of the home crowd and the Rams’ coaching staff.

He made up for his disappointing effort with a typical, predatory header a minute from the end of extra-time but Narit was equal to it to ensure that both sides go into the dreaded penalty kicks to confirm which side will go through to the semifinals.

In the end, it was the Rams that got the better of the Thai side but coach Kachendecha hopes that he has another chance next year to participate in the RHB Singapore Cup.

He said, “I would love to come back to compete in the tournament next year. The way football is being played here is much different from Thailand.

“Down here, football is played at a much faster speed and there’s more pressure on the players as they have no time to control the ball at their own pace,” Kachendecha ended on a positive note.

Syahrom Sulaiman