Bad Boy for Life
Singapore Football Club’s bad boy, John Norfolk, continued his roller coaster season as he bagged two goals for the table toppers... before deciding to take an early bath and head for “Seventh Heaven”.
Having returned to the side after a well-documented disciplinary incident (alongside his ongoing “refueling issues”), the English journeyman exposed his legion of fans to both the good and bad sides of his own beautiful game.
Kicking off in heavy rain, things did not start well for SFC. Ronnie Smollet was called in to action quickly, and made possibly the save of the game as he palmed away a vicious shot from close range. The Gaulois striker’s anguish, at being denied, was heard across the whole of the SAFRA Tampines complex.
Rather than heeding this early warning SFC remained jittery, and the French took the lead in the 8th minute as they capitalised on an uncharacteristic mistake, in the Singapore FC defence. SFC 0 OGS 1.
It was at this stage the crowd were treated to what John Norfolk can do best.
Channelling his fellow Old Lancing Elphinstone Jackson, Norfolk was a whirlwind of activity. This culminated in SFC’s number eight bursting through midfield, to beat his team mate Matt Zatto to the ball, and finish neatly past the OGS keeper to equalise.
Half time: SFC 1 OGS 1.
SFC began well in the second half. The attacking Singapore strike force of Duric and Tzu Ming was a constant menace for the Gallic defence. As Din probed in midfield, SFC were unlucky not to add to their score, especially whilst Sim and Zatto, continued to pose threats out wide too.
Instead, SFC encountered another setback.
Olympique Gaulois, having not offered a serious goal threat, up until this point, won a free kick on the right wing. The ball was swung in to the penalty area where Singapore FC’s keeper, Ronnie Smollet, waited for what appeared to be a regulation catch. Instead the ball ended up being, fumbled and the French striker tapped in from two yards.
SFC 1 OGS 2.
Data specialist Envolve.ai, the official match day statisticians, confirmed after the match that this was the first handling area made by Smollet in 1,397 appearances.
A true collector’s item.
Having fallen behind for a second time, that man again, John Norfolk, decided it was time to impose himself. Bustling through midfield and past a number of tackles, he was cynically upended by the final French defender.
The referee, having denied SFC a stone wall penalty earlier in the match, finally succumbed and pointed to the spot.
After a brief delay, as the officials re marked the penalty spot, Norfolk calmly stepped up and slotted the ball past the keeper’s left, and brought the scores level.
SFC 2 OGS 2.
“Beati Mundo Corde!” (Blessed are the pure in heart), he roared in celebration.
With the momentum now shifting, the game appeared to be heading SFC’s way, but then a moment of madness.
Having wrestled the game back under control, Norfolk was again in the thick of it. Another driving, trademark surge from midfield in to the Gaulois box saw him upended in questionable circumstances.
Rather than let the officials take care of proceedings however, a rush of blood saw SFC’s number 8 clash with his opponent. The referee wasted no time, and brandished a straight red and promptly ended Norfolk’s involvement in the game. With a full twenty five minutes still remaining, it was very much “Game on”.
Coach Yasin quickly made the necessary changes to rebalance SFC’s shape, whilst whispering some quiet, paternal assurances to his younger players. Nick Marsh and Atsushi Otsuka were introduced to proceedings whilst, wily warhorse, Owen Monaghan was reinserted to hold the middle.
Olympique Gaulois now began to push numbers forward, as they chased the three points with their man advantage. It was not to be their day however.
Saatwik Kaul, who had acquitted himself admirably throughout the game, decided to bring the ball forwardswith five minutes remaining. As he reached the edge of the penalty area, he unleashed a rocket at goal that cannoned off the underside of the bar.
With absence of VAR, whilst other players turned to appeal to the referee that it had crossed the line, Aleks Duric showed why he is still one of the best in the business. Reacting first the Singaporean calmly slotted home, from a tight angle, to seal the points for SFC. As the final whistle was blown minutes later, the rain sodden French players collapsed in unison to the ground, crestfallen.
Not SFC’s finest performance, but it was testament to the strength, experience and desire of the squad that the team retained their unbeaten record, and in the process reclaimed first place in the league. The game also acted as a reminder that, for all SFC’s opponents, any fixture against the Sashmen is treated as a Cup Final.
Three games, and the spectre of the CoronaVirus, now lie between SFC and a possible first league title.
Man of the Match: Aleks Duric