The Canon Lion City Cup finally got underway with Matchday 1. In the first match, Singapore’s NFA U15 went up against Corinthians and it was the boys from Sao Paulo who came away with a convincing 7-0 win.
NFA U15 coach Nazri Nasir was visibly disappointed but gave his congratulations to Corinthians and also still managed to praise his players.
“I am not happy with our performance, but I have to commend them for their effort. Corinthians were better in every aspect – physically, mentally, and technique-wise. You could see that their striker (Leo Jaba) and fullbacks were strong and fast.”
Nazri refused to put the blame on individuals, adding, “Errors happen in youth football. We have to learn from our mistakes, and prove a point to the fans and family members who come down to support us.”
Corinthians had team captain Leo Jaba to thank for their victory. The pacy striker lived up to all the hype by putting four goals past NFA U15 goalkeeper Kenji Rusydi.
“Our opponents and the heat made life difficult for us in the beginning. Once we could control the ball and move it around the pitch, we created chances and scored goals. I believe I can play better with the help of my teammates,” said the Brazil U15 international.
Jaba was also adamant about not allowing complacency to set in.
“I am always full of confidence. But being the top scorer in the tournament would only be a bonus. I want Corinthians to be champions.”
Corinthians coach Marcio Zarnadi said, “The 7-0 scoreline was flattering. The NFA U15 are a very good team and they showed good positioning. They made things really difficult for us in the first half. But once my boys got used to the weather and the pitch, they were able to influence the game. I instructed them to pass the ball around in the first half. After that, we played more attacking football and passed forward more often.”
Additional goals from midfielder Matheus da Silva, forward Rafeal Bilu and defender Wesley Duarte sealed the victory for Corinthians.
In the second match, Arsenal faced off against NFA U16.
Although Arsenal took an early lead through midfielder Faiq Bolkiah, both teams were pretty much even in the first half.
Chances came far and few with both teams trying to break through their opponent’s defense methodically. Kaylen Hinds had a good opportunity to increase Arsenal’s lead but crashed his shot against the crossbar.
In the second half, both teams carried on with their patient build-up play. The NFA U16 tried to rely on striker Irfan Fandi’s height and strength to hold up the ball, and the pace of their wingers but the end product was lacking.
NFA U16 finally got the breakthrough when Irfan Fandi scored after a short goalmouth scramble. The Jalan Besar crowd was ignited by the goal and cheers of “Ole Ole Ole” were heard around the stadium.
But the home crowd were silenced almost immediately as goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad spilled Kaylen Hind’s shot and Harry Donovan was well positioned to tap it home. That proved to be the final goal of the game with the London club bringing home a slender 2-1 win.
“We deserved a point from this game. We fought really hard and we didn’t want to go home empty handed. The team is only 5 months old. We are a new team so it was always an uphill task from the start,” said NFA U16 coach Robin Chitrakar.
Man of the match, Irfan Fandi scored on his debut at the Canon Lion City Cup and he acknowledged the comparisons made with his famous father Fandi Ahmad but stressed the importance on teamwork.
“I play for the team and I’m happy that I scored. I feel honoured to play in the number 17 shirt,” said the 16 year old.
According to coach Chitrakar, his jersey number was randomly selected.
Also speaking after the match, Arsenal coach Kwame Ampadu was happy with the opportunity for his boys to learn at the Canon Lion City Cup.
“We had to fight for it. Singapore were tactically aware and organised. We were patient. We created chances and we got the win. Our midfield kept the ball very well and our defence was very tight.”
Faiq Jefri Bolkiah, a Bruneian player on trial with the club who got his side’s first goal shared his experience at the tournament so far.
“It is definitely a different experience playing here. It was very hot and I’ve never played in such a big crowd.”