Full time Manchester United fan, and part time Singapore Football Club manager, Mo Yasin has a quote from the great Old Trafford manager, Sir Matt Busby, framed above his desk. It reads: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”
And so it was that “Yasin’s Babes” traveled to UWCSEA Dover, to play former COSMO League club Casuals FC, with five players aged 18 or younger (a further three teenagers were playing for SFC in the other fixture at GEMS Academy).
Expectations for both teams were high. Singapore Football Club was top of the table going into the game, but equally, Casuals had collected maximum points from their first four games of the season.
Yasin’s emphasis on youth was soon vindicated, however. Singapore Football Club flew out of the blocks from the first whistle and the Casuals defensive line was soon wondering which way to turn. SFC debutant Chang Guo Guang was finding plenty of space down the right flank, ably supported by ‘Novato native’ Matt Zatto, down the left flank. Meanwhile, at the back, Jon Francis introduced himself to the game. SFC’s elegant center-half making two recovery tackles in a matter of minutes, to keep the scoreline at 0-0.
Eventually, after twelve minutes the first goal came via the sparkling yellow boots of Matt Zatto. The American finishing clinically to make it 1-0, after some excellent work from Guang.
Casuals continued to look for openings, however, and dead-ball specialist Jamie Butler was unlucky not to equalize. Kelly Williams, in between the SFC sticks, managing to tip his well-struck effort on to the post and out.
With SFC continuing to find space down the right they knew more opportunities would come their way. Sure enough, in the twentieth minute, the ball broke to Guang once again. The Singaporean marksman made no mistake and SFC doubled their lead to 2-0.
To their credit Casuals continued to battle hard, but their persistence was met by the resilient pairing of Huang and Francis within the SFC backline. Partnered by the youthful presence of Ng and Amour either side of them. Eventually, it took the intervention of the referee to change that. What had appeared to be a well-saved attempt on goal by Williams was surprisingly, for both teams, adjudged to be a penalty by the referee. The spot-kick was duly converted and in the process halved the deficit for the home team.
Almost immediately SFC responded. Robert Eziakor’s hard work in midfield started to pay off, and the evergreen Nigerian’s slide-rule pass found Matt Zatto in space. Whilst everyone else stopped for the linesman, Marin County’s favourite son reacted first and scored the simplest of goals to bag his second of the afternoon. 3-1 to SFC.
Not to be outdone by his fellow winger Guang then stepped up to score his second of the game. The pacy striker nipping into the six-yard box to score from close range, after Zatto and Hemmingway had combined.
Half time score: Casuals 1 SFC 4.
The second half began in much the same fashion as the first with Guang continuing to find space down the right. This finally resulted in his third goal. The Singaporean’s shot looped over the head of Casuals’ keeper who appeared to fumble the ball over the line. Having spent some time debating the goal, the Equatorial League’s Dubious Goal Committee finally awarded the goal, and his hatrick, to Guang. 5-1 to SFC.
As Casuals shoulders understandably began to droop Coach Yasin, with the comfort of a four-goal lead, decided to use his team’s advantage to bring on even fresher legs. SFC quickly introduced Japanese wonderkid Ten Takeda on the left wing with Angad Vohra down the other. Meanwhile, in the middle of the park, Tejas Sarna had started to make his presence felt and was unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal on debut.
Despite numerous chances to add to their lead SFC’s failed to extend their lead and the final score settled on 5-1.
With such a dominant display there were many nominees for SFC’s Man of the Match. Both Guang and Zatto were outstanding out wide and scored all of the five goals between them.
However, Coach Yasin singled out the defensive pairing of Amour and Francis for special praise, with the final nod eventually falling to Jon Francis. The young Englishman laying the foundations for SFC’s afternoon from the back with a calm assuredness throughout.
Man of the Match: Jon Francis