SAFFC woes continue with Woodlands draw

SAFFC's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League title aspirations took another blow on Thursday as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Woodlands Wellington.

"Where's the ball?!"

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

Moon Soon-ho gave the Rams a shock lead when he struck in the 15th minute only for Mislav Karoglan to equalise for the Warriors shortly after.

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Against the run of play, Moon then grabbed his second in the 62nd minute but again the Warriors hit back immediately through a ferocious effort from Ruzaini Zainal.

The Warriors then spent the remainder of the game desperately searching for a winner but their attempts were ultimately futile in the end.

Woodlands' chances of recording a win took a blow ahead of the game as coach Salim Moin was forced into three changes. Right-back K. Sathiaraj was suspended while Duncan Elias and Hussein Akil missed out through illness and injury respectively.

Warriors coach Richard Bok made just one change from the side that lost to Harimau Muda last Sunday, replacing Zulfadli Zainal Abidin with Razaleigh Khalik in defence and opting to keep his faith in strike duo Fazrul Nawaz and Mislav Karoglan, who missed a host of chances in their last match.

And it was Fazrul who had the first real chance to open the scoring in the 11th minute after indecision at the back by Edward Tan allowed him to sneak in and nip the ball past Ahmadulhaq Che Omar. Unfortunately for SAFFC, the Singapore international's touch brought him too wide, giving the Woodlands keeper enough time to race back and block the shot.

One of the bright sparks of Woodlands' season so far has been the partnership of Hussein and Moon in attack. But with the former out injured, many questioned whether his South Korean team-mate would be able to function without his strike partner.

Fifteen minutes into the game, Moon quashed those doubts in clinical fashion.

Fresh from coming close with a 25-yard effort, the 31-year-old made a darting run in behind Noh Rahman and was picked out by a glorious through-ball from Armanizam Dolah. With only the advancing Shahril Jantan between him and the goal, the Rams spearhead made no mistake, calmly slotting the ball past the veteran keeper to put his side ahead.

However, their lead proved to be short-lived as the Warriors pushed forward and equalised six minutes later.

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Despite having conceded 11 goals prior to Thursday's game, Woodlands had been strong in defending set-pieces all season long, largely due to the combined aerial prowess of Daniel Hammond and Fabien Lewis.

Therefore, there seemed no apparent danger when Tatsuro Inui swung in a freekick from the left, but Karoglan somehow managed to escape the attention of both Woodlands centre-backs, and rose unmarked to power a header past Ahmadulhaq.

Having now levelled matters, the Warriors nearly went ahead just two minutes later when Karoglan carved open an excellent chance with a neat ball into the path of Fazrul. However, with just Ahmadulhaq to beat, the 26-year-old fired a disappointing effort straight at the keeper.

Now fully aware of the threat the SAFFC attack posed, the Rams started to tighten things at the back and successfully restricted their opponents to shots from distance.

First, Shukor Zailan let fly from 35 yards with a piledriver that stung the hands of Ahmadulhaq, before Inui cut in from the left and fired a fierce shot just wide on his weaker right foot.

With SAFFC now dominating proceedings, Moon was starting to cut a frustrated figure but just after the hour mark, he showed how clinical he was when, against the run of play, he put Woodlands back in front.

There looked to be not much on when the Woodlands man picked up the ball on the right near the halfway line. But with little support and no real pressure from the opposition defenders, Moon headed straight for goal and gradually made his way into the box, before perfectly placing his ball just inside the near post despite a tough angle.

But just like in the first half, the Rams were unable to hold onto their lead and allowed SAFFC to peg them back once again in the 68th minute, although this time there was little they could do about the equaliser.

Karoglan forced Ahmadulhaq into a good save after a smart turn and shot on the edge of the area, but the ball made its way to Ruzaini, who smashed a ferocious effort into the crossbar and back out again. There was initial confusion as to whether or not the ball had crossed the line but after getting the signal from his linesman, referee W. Ravisanthiran awarded the goal and the Warriors were back level.

With their title aspirations hanging by a thread, SAFFC started to push forward with more intent in search for a winner. Shimpei Sakurada stung Ahmadulhaq's hands again with another blistering drive in the 75th minute, before Fazrul wasted an excellent chance when he headed over after Zulfadli's corner had found him unmarked at the far post.

Karoglan had one final chance to grab a winner for the Warriors after dancing past a couple of challenges inside the box, but he screwed his shot just wide as the Rams held on for a hard-earned point.

Woodlands Wellington: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Fabien Lewis, Daniel Hammond, Edward Tan, Goh Swee Swee, Han Yi Guang, Armanizam Dolah (Aloysius Yap 82'), Guntur Djafril, Shamsurin Rahman (Oswind Suriya 90'), Farizal Basri (Andy Ahmad 64'), Moon Soon-ho.

SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Razaleigh Khalik, Daniel Bennett, Bah Mamadou, Noh Rahman (Erwan Gunawan 82'), Ruzaini Zainal, Shukor Zailan, Shimpei Sakurada, Tatsuro Inui (Zulfadli Zainal Abidin 72'), Fazrul Nawaz, Mislav Karoglan.

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