By: Alia Harvey
Our U21s returned to Jurong West Stadium Saturday evening after their unfortunate defeat due to an own goal to Hougang United on 30 May away from home. Sadly, it was not meant to be last night as 2016 Dollah Kassim Award nominee, Danial Syafiq, scored twice to seal all three points for the NFA U18s.
It wasn’t an ideal situation last night with only three substitutes on the bench — one outfield and two goalkeepers. Regular S.League call up, and proven key player for the U21s, Zulfadhmi Suzliman, was out for this game after a fierce tackle in the 32nd minute against Hougang United last week forced him out of the game due to injury.
Despite our young Stags creating a fair number of chances, the NFA U18 side dominated the first half. They were given chance after chance to break the deadlock due to our boys giving away silly fouls. One of these fouls nearly gave NFA the chance to break the deadlock with a free kick awarded 25 yards out twenty minutes into the game. The U18 side smartly played it short before crossing it into the box, but it saw two of the NFA boys clash into each other to throw away a precious opportunity to take the lead.
It was all NFA for a solid twenty minutes after that free kick, who were easily controlling the game, and continuously creating chances for their side. Back to back the U18s had two chances that both went wide — one from a great run down the wing by NFA’s #53 Idraki Adnan who crossed it in to #54 Danial Syafiq for the sitter, and the other by their #47 Haziq Razzali who greatly played past our defenders before taking a shot inside the box.
Our young Stags were not giving up, as #27 Faizal Raffi got hold of the ball from a mess outside our box, smartly turned, but didn’t quite get the touch he needed as we saw the shot go way over the bar. It wasn’t over yet though, as 17 year old Ryhan Stewart won us a free kick on the edge of the box. Syed Haziq stepped up to take the free kick with his sweet left foot, which just went inches over the bar.
Both teams towards the end of the first half were desperate to break the deadlock, as unnecessary fouls were being committed by both sides. The chance came right at the end of the first half for us, as Khairul Nizam dribbled into the box and took a shot. NFA goalkeeper Shafiq Zaini deflected the shot, as our Faizal Raffi missed the tap in. The tables turned as NFA went on the counter attack. Danial Syafiq got the ball at the halfway line, dribbling on his own. Our goalkeeper Haikal Hasnol committed, a mistake made as Danial rounded him and scored… NFA taking the lead at the 45th minute. Two minutes of added time added nothing, as the first half ended 1-0 to NFA U18.
The kickoff of the second half had to be retaken, as our Syed Haziq ran forward before the whistle was blown.
Only 12 minutes into the second half, we had to make a forced substitution as our only outfield player, Raja Rishan, came on for Syed Haziq who was badly tackled and had to be stretchered off. Our young Stags were looking for the equaliser, and unnecessary fouls were being committed as our Adiputra Jeferee saw himself receive the first yellow card of the game.
As the game continued, NFA proved themselves to be the more technical and fitter side. Our Sheikh Ibrahim went down for cramps in the 70th minute, but had to get up and continue, as the only outfield substitute already came on earlier. Despite this, we were still continuously looking for the equaliser. Ryhan Stewart dribbled form the halfway line to the edge of the box, before passing to Raja Rishan who got defended.
We attacked again, and this time Faizal Raffi was fouled at the edge of the box at the 75th minute. Before that however, NFA #42 Alia Iskandar was down in the box, and was stretchered off as #44 Jordan Vestering came on. Faizal took the free kick for us, but unfortunately he hit the netting.
A regrettable mistake was made by Stags captain Andi Agus right at the edge of the box, as he took out an NFA player. Already on the scoresheet, Danial Syafiq stepped up for the free kick. A fantastic one it was as the ball hit the back of the net, and saw the NFA U18 side go 2-0 up in the 78th minute.
Pretty much secure for all three points, NFA U18 coach Christophe Chaintreuil made two changes in midfield as Shah Shahiran and Elliot Ng come on for Haziq Razzali and Akmal Azman.
NFA U18 weren’t done, and nearly made it three when they came one-on-one against Stags goalkeeper Haikal Hasnol, who made a great save with his foot. We continue to chase the game, as Khairul Nizam tries his luck from 25 yards out, but NFA’s Shafiq Zaini catches the shot with ease.
With only three minutes to go, NFA replaced their forwards by bringing on Daniel Martens and Hafiz Abdullah, and taking out Idraki Adnan and double goalscorer Danial Syafiq. With six minutes of added time, we saw the Stags replace Haikal Hasnol with 18 year old Yuen Yong Jie in goal.
As the Stags continued to chase the game, NFA continued their attempt to increase their goal tally. With only a minute to go, Ryhan Stewart badly fouled NFA’s Amirul Haikal at the edge of the box, and luckily was only shown a yellow card. With a chance to end the game 3-0, the free kick hit the wall, and left the NFA U18 side walking away with a 2-0 victory over the Stags.
The Prime League team will be in action again this Saturday, June 8, at 8.30pm at Woodlands Stadium, against Geylang International.