The Saturday Night Lights Sports School team posing for a team photo pre-match. (image credit: SportCares)
With just one loss in the round-robin first round of play, Saturday Night Lights (SNL) Sports School came into today’s game riding a two-game win streak in a must-win situation against a bigger, more physical La Croqueta team.
SNL Sports School was the lone SportCares team to qualify for the second round in the Delta League Competition. And the team struggled to find the back of the net in a scoreless first half. The second half, however, saw a change of pace, with striker Shah netting a penalty goal in the final minutes of the game.
“If you have guts you can overcome everything in life,” Coach Yakob of the SNL Sports School team said. The players certainly showed their guts, in a cracking game that saw the team fight back from a sluggish first half.
The first shot for goal came from La Croqueta’s #7, with the team putting pressure on SNL Sports School early, forcing them to step up their defence.
“Press hard!” SNL Sports School Coach Yakob shouted from the sidelines.
With SNL Sports School on the defensive mode early on, they failed to get near the opposing goal in the first 15 minutes of the game.
“Send the ball down the field instead of bringing the ball back!” Coach Yakob yelled.
With his coach’s words in mind, Shah took the team’s first shot in the 16th minute when he got an open look at the goal, his shot barely missing the inside of the left post.
Although the team missed the opportunity to gain the lead, the shot succeeded in shifting the momentum of the game, moving SNL Sports School from a less defensive stance, taking another two shots at the opposing goal within a 3-minute span.
The true turning point in the match came just after the 20-minute mark. A mismatch found SNL Sports School goalkeeper Wahyu diving outside the goal, saving the first kick. However it left the goal wide open. Nurullah chased the ball down, seconds before it touched the back of the goal, saving SNL Sports School from a 0-1 hole in the first half.
“I wasn’t doing so well in the first half of the game but after that save my confidence came back,” Nurullah said.
Solid dribbling by Azrin allowed SNL Sports School’s centre back Danial another shot at the goal at the 30th minute, this one sailing just over the top of the goal post to end the first half 0-0.
“They’re a good side and physically they are stronger than us,” Coach Yakob said. “But football isn’t about strength. It isn’t about size. Football is about character building. It’s about guts.”
“[This game] shows how bad you really want it,” Coach Isa said. “Win this game and we make it to the next round.”
The second half saw SNL Sports School emerge as the stronger team, earning five more shots at the goal in the next 15 minutes.
Captain for the day, Fazrey was key to motivating his team during this stretch. The captain’s arm band gets passed around in the SNL Sports School team, giving each player the opportunity to step up and fill the leadership role.
“Some people think that [the captain’s arm band] is just for show,” Fazrey said. “But I don’t think so; I think the coach really gave me this responsibility. Win or lose, it’s up to me to motivate the team.”
At the 45th minute, La Croqueta missed a free kick, leaving the game scoreless with just 15 minutes left of playing time.
The next five minutes of the game saw Shah with four corner kick chances, each one finding the fence or an opponent’s foot instead of the back of the net.
La Croqueta earned another shot at the goal on the other end at the 55-minute mark, the ball sailing over the players’ heads to hit the fence behind the goal.
With regulation time dwindling, the game looked headed into penalties.
But with less than five minutes left, SNL Sports School was awarded a critical penalty kick.
Shah geared up for the kick, and this time the ball found itself rolling past La Croqueta’s goalie into the net.
Goal. 1-0 SNL Sports School.
“I was feeling happy in the game and I played hard,” Shah said. “It feels really good to get the goal.”
La Croqueta tried desperately to take the game to penalties, sending two more failed shots at the SNL Sports School goal in the next two minutes.
“I just focused on how to take the ball and how to catch it,” Wahyu said. “I was scared of missing the ball, scared of giving up a goal in the last few minutes of the game.”
As the closing whistle sounded, cheers broke out on the SNL Sports School sidelines, the team’s 1-0 victory launching them into the quarterfinals round.
“I think we played really well and worked very hard today,” Azrin said, a major player in today’s game, setting the example with his speed and energy on the field, and his positivity and support for his teammates off the field. “I think we deserved the win today and I’m looking forward to the quarterfinals.”
Scorer of the match winner Shah (left) being interviewed post match about his goal (image credit: SportCares).