Warwick Knights Earn A Point With Magnificent Last Ditch Winner

The Knights were ecstatic after Akhbar Ali grabbed a last minute equaliser with a majestic header.
Photo: FAS National Football League

Aaron Chan
Writer / Editor
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

Four goals, a last-ditch equalizer and a missed penalty. The National Football League (NFL) Division Two opener between Warwick Knights and Kembangan United last evening had everything but the kitchen sink to set the tone for what promises to be an exciting season for the NFL this year.

Finishing third in Group A of the 2016 Island-Wide League as compared to Kembangan United's first placed finish in Group B last year, the Knights started the brighter of the two when former Hougang United midfielder Ridhwan Osman floated a free kick into the box for Akhbar Ali in the second minute, but the big target man glanced it wide.

Akhbar threatened Kembangan's goal again barely three minutes later when he unleased a shot inside the box but custodian Magrib Ibrahim managed to palm it away to safety.

Despite Warwick having more possession during the first ten minutes of play, it was Kembangan who scored first when 2016 IWL top scorer Saiful Jamaludin pounced quickly to chest down a lobbed pass before slotting the ball under Arif Agus following a quick counter in the 13th minute.

The Knights continued to pile on the pressure on Kembangan after going behind and Hilmi Azman saw his shot being deflected out for a corner after turning the Golden Horses inside out with his fancy footwork in the 27th minute.

Warwick's effort would then pay off four minutes later when Firdaus Rahim latched on to a superb flick-on by Akhbar and took advantage of Magrib's blunder to equalize. 

Shalihin Sulaimi would then clip Warwick's crossbar before Tasrif Azman had to be taken off after a horrendous clash with Warwick midfielder Shafiq Suleman, giving former Tiong Bahru FC youngster Aubrey Ang a chance to make his debut for the Golden Horses.

Photo: FAS National Football League

Warwick continued dominating the proceedings after the restart when Akhbar forced a wonderful save out of Magrib with a thumping header in the 51st minute which saw the Kembangan keeper leap across the face of goal to keep the ball out. 

Kembangan skipper Farhan Musa then gave away a penalty moments later after tussling with Firdaus but Magrib maintained the scoreline by jumping the right way to deny Ridhwan Osman from the spot.

Shahrul Nizam Mazlan came on for Shaffiee Safari in the 56th minute and the 21 year old fired Kembangan ahead just 12 minutes later, cutting past Nazarulsufyan Nazareen before letting fly with a left-footed cracker which left Arif stranded.

Izwan Mustafa then had the ball in the net during the final quarter of the match but the linesman had flagged him for a offside call and the attacking midfielder was furious with the decision.

Following that incident, it was Warwick goalkeeper Arif Agus who stole the limelight with three important quick-reflex saves in the last ten minutes to deny Kembangan, the most notable one where he stuck a last-gasp boot in the way of Izwan's shot from point blank range. 

The Golden Horses were then left ruing their profligacy in front of goal when Akhbar rose the highest to head home a well-deserved equaliser from the last attempt of the match before referee Siddique Malique blew for time.

Photo: FAS National Football League

Kembangan Coach D. Tokijan felt that it was an evenly contested game and he was satisfied with the way his young team played against a more experience Warwick side and the Golden Horses' gaffer was also impressed with the performance of substitute Shahrul Nizam. Speaking of the 21 year old's goal, the former Singapore international said,"It was a well taken goal. He had a split second to shoot and he took it."

"The team just needs more game and training sessions to gel together as some of our players had to cater for work commitments." 

Warwick Knights Assistant Coach Nas Nasta'in was also happy with his team's performance. "It was a really thrilling match with end to end action where (Kembangan) took the lead twice and we had to play catch-up. We were a little downcast after the penalty miss and I'm pretty sure the scoreline would have been different had we scored from the spot."

Nas had nothing but good words for match winner Akhbar Ali, "Akhbar has been with us since the previous season and a few S.League clubs actually came knocking on our doors but nothing materialised. With his talent, I think it would only be a matter of time before we see him play in the S.League."

The assistant coach was also thrilled with custodian Arif Agus's performance in goal "He was outstanding and had a commanding presence at the back. Arif was also a part of the Singapore Malays team in 2015 where he was awarded the Man Of The Match in a match against PRDM FC. They were so impressed by his ability that they actually wanted to sign him but they couldn't do so because he was not a S.League player."

The Knights will meet Starlight Soccerites at Queenstown Stadium in their next match on 20th May while Kembangan will face new kids on the block Academy Junior Football at Bukit Gombak Stadium on the same day.

Full-Time at Jalan Besar Stadium - NFL Division 2 (22 April 2017):

Warwick Knights - 2
Kembangan United - 2


Warwick - Firdaus Rahim 31',  Akhbar Ali 90+2'
Kembangan - Saiful Jamaludin 13', Shahrul Nizam Mazlan 68'

All copyrights © 2017 are attributed to the respective contributors above.