Monday, April 9, 2012

Reaction: Woodlands vs SAFFC

As far as performances go, our draw against SAFFC will rank right up there alongside the most memorable nights at Jalan Besar Stadium. Although the Rams endured a frenetic and nervy climax to the game, there was a collective desire shown by the whole squad to eke out a result against the Warriors, who had been widely tipped by pundits and the media to win this one easily.

"Super Moon" scoring his second of the night.
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

A victory over the Warriors was certainly running through the minds of every player and fan as we took the lead twice against the S.League powerhouses. Granted, SAFFC rolled up their sleeves and played equally hard to even out the score on booth occasions, but it was good to see the Rams work the ball around and string those important passes together to get their confidence going. And this was a depleted squad playing without three first team players - Hussein Akil, Duncan Elias and K. Sathiaraj.

On certain occasions, we could see SAFFC's players pushing hard to keep up with the Rams. We were definitely not going to roll over and play dead for this fixture. You could see the fire in every Ram's belly. We were not content on just sitting back and absorbing the pressure. When we broke off on the counter, you could see how much our forwards wanted to win the game for us.

Photo Credit:Leo Shengwei

The Warriors must have been shocked to see the Rams go in front when the superb Moon Soon-Ho blazed past a backpeddling Noh Rahman to latch on to Armanizam Dolah's sharp punt to place a volley past the oncoming Sharil Jantan in a fine team move that had seen SAFFC slack in defence. Needless to say, the Warriors' fans suddenly went silent when they realized that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park as they previously thought. Full credit goes to Armanizam for his second consecutive assist following his cross which led to Goh Swee Swee's beautiful header last week.)

Moon, who was briefly floored after being sandwiched between Noh and the outcoming Sharil, did not manage to celebrate his goal but he certainly made up for it when he chased after a excellent pass from Goh Swee Swee and placed an shot with astounding accurancy past Sharil Jantan for his second of the night in the 66th minute. He immediately ran towards the Black Sheep in the gallery, smiled at the supporters and raised his arms triumphantly - drawing incessant chants of "Super Moon" from the stands - before Capt. Daniel Hammond carried Moon on his shoulders in a jubilant celebration for the Rams.

Han Yiguang had a good game in counterbalancing the Warriors' perilous midfield. 
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

It was rather uncharacteristic of the Rams to start off with a 3-5-2 formation but if the game plan was to contain the Warriors' midfield, then the strategy was pretty effective. Armanizam Dolah and Shamsurin Abdul Rahman sat in the middle of the park while Han Yiguang was deployed effectively to protect the back three. Goh Swee Swee and Guntur Djafril plied the full length of the flanks with much gusto and cause plenty of problems with their speed and determination. Yiguang was impressive, putting in the tackles where it mattered and doing a fine job of ensuring that the Warriors' attacks were broken down before it could come into our final third of the pitch. Armanizam's positional sense and accurate passing was also a vital link between the defence and attack, as was Shamsurin's penetrating runs down the middle.

Farizal Basri's name may not be on the scoresheet, but his clever hold-ups, passing and diagonal runs created plenty of space for Moon to exploit. He also confused the SAFFC defence on a couple of times with his runs and allowed Shamsurin to run down the middle. A hardworking and selfless player, Farizal deserves a thumbs-up for a gritty performance.

Ahmadulhaq Che Omar was another unsung hero who kept us in the game with his courageous saves. He could not be faulted for either of SAF's goals, particularly when he made an excellent stop just seconds before Ruzaini Zainal released a cracker that ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar. It took a few seconds before the referee decided to award the goal after consulting his linesman. While it was unclear whether the ball did actually go in, replays after the match did show that the ball had crossed the line completely.

Ahmadulhaq was amazing and we could have let in more if not for his wonderful goalkeeping
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

Goh Swee Swee's close marking of Tatsuro Inui - well-known for making himself a nuisance down the flank - kept the frustrated Japanese winger almost out of the entire game. While he was busy trailing his man, Swee Swee also had a wonderful hand in Moon's second goal. Remarkable stuff from the 25 year old winger who was made to play deeper than he usually does.

Andy Ahmad, who came in for Farizal on 64 minutes, nearly won the game for the Rams when his late shot from distance whistled just inches above the SAFFC crossbar. The young striker brought lost of pace to the Rams' attack and he had the Warriors backpeddling on a few occasions to prevent another Woodlands goal.

The Warriors must feel hard done not to have won the game, but the difference between both teams was their finishing. Granted, Woodlands was defending for the larger part of the game but when they had the chance to attack, they made the most of it and Moon finished off clinically while SAFFC's national team striker Fazrul Nawaz must be wondering if he had left his scoring boots at home for this match. The tough tackling duo of Fabien Lewis and Daniel Hammond could have also affected SAFFC mentally.

Swee Swee was disciplined and stuck to the game plan even though he was not deployed
further upfront in a more favourable position.
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

A wonderful result for the Rams as we now look confidently forward to next Sunday's encounter against Harimau Muda. The Rams' long goalless spell also seems to have been broken and it is important that the boys start scoring again. Moon's brace will no doubt give him plenty of confidence for the games ahead and we await with bated breath to see if the Korean hitman can continue his scoring run at Yishun stadium. Moon is Woodlands' top scorer so far with four goals to his name and he will be looking forward to add more to his tally.

Come On You Rams!

SAFFC had big bass drums and choreographed cheerleading.
We matched them with our vigorous cheering, team spirit and big hearts.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep) via Lee Siew Ping

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