It was the battle of the Parks again as Central Park took on Holland Park XI. In the last meeting the latter soundly beat the Sharks 4-0 in an abject display by the boys in yellow. However this time CPFC put up much more of a fight, even if the result didn’t quite reflect it. Poor finishing was the key factor in the loss, but Holland Park is an exceptional team and nothing should be taken away from their slick performance. Harold made his return from a groin injury, but Jon was missing in central midfield. Also missing were Yi Quan and defensive rocks Vincent and Anuar.
Holland Park began cautiously, unlike their all-out attack approach in the last game. However their passing prowess was immediately evident as they exchanged some one-touch stuff. CPFC too looked up for it as they immediately found openings in the Holland Park defense. A quick-fire one-two between Isaac and Heng Li almost paved the way for the opener when the former found himself alone in the box. Despite having time and space, the burly striker rushed the shot which was saved by the goalkeeper and cleared into touch.
A golden opportunity passed, but the Sharks kept up their discipline as Holland Park slowly imposed themselves on the game. Mizan has time and again proven how much of a key player he is, and this match was no exception. With the Sharks’ defence holding firm, Holland Park opted to shoot from distance. Mizan showed a safe pair of hands each time, as his excellent positioning meant the shots posed no immediate threat. But Holland Park soon showed how deadly they could be. A rapid exchange of passes saw their speedy right winger set free on his flank. Zhuoneng quickly closed him down but he was able to get a shot away, bound for the far bottom corner. Mizan was equal to the task however and tipped it round the post.
Central Park arguably had the best chances of the half with Isaac in particular guilty of being wasteful. When Brendan put him through down the left flank, he found himself with only the keeper to beat, but the custodian saved smartly once again. Then came Li’s turn to fluff his lines. The Sharks were quick to counter-attack following a Holland corner. Chris looked up to see Isaac make a darting run down the right channel and put him through. As Li came surging down the middle, Isaac laid a ball into his path. The bounce perhaps put Li off slightly and the diminutive striker volleyed the ball too close to the goalkeeper, who parried the shot away.
Graeme continued to flourish in his right back role, spraying long balls down the right to good effect. But the Sharks were soon made to pay for their profligacy when Holland Park finally found the break through. It came in typical fashion, when no one tracked their speedy left winger as he broke the offside trap. An excellent through pass found him in acres of space in the box and he didn’t waste it, blasting a low shot past Mizan.
The half ended with Holland Park finally in front leaving CPFC with a mountain to climb. The break saw Jason and Jiawen introduced into a 4-5-1 formation. This had limited effect however as Holland Park continued to stroke the ball around comfortably. Their one-touch passes and flicks proved too quick for the Sharks to handle as their strikers were put through time and again. Mizan stubbornly resisted however, dealing with everything they could throw in his way. But even he couldn’t stop the inevitable.
A Holland Park corner caused havoc in the CP area, and when Charlson fluffed his clearance, a Holland forward was on hand to volley the ball home. The introduction of Harold gave the Sharks more focus for their attacks and the winger started taking on players down the left channel. With the sun beating down on the pitch, Central Park’s aging team began to tire, allowing their opponents to control much of the midfield play. It was no surprise then that the league leaders went even further ahead. An innocuous shot was saved by Mizan, but the rebound was laid perfectly into the path of an onrushing Holland player, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
The game ended 3-0 but it could easily have been 3-3 if the Sharks had taken their chances. However the scoreline did not reflect the kind of game Central Park played, and the boys in yellow can be satisfied with their work ethic. The result also meant the spectre of relegation loomed large, with 2 games against arch rivals Singapore Vikings among the remaining fixtures.
The manager commented, 'We just can't keep giving goals this way. We are making elementary mistakes at the back while trying to play like Barcelona. It doesn't help either that this season we saw an array of changes at the back and never seemed to have a fixed backline.'
He added, 'However, the defense can only hold for so long and the attackers have to share the blame for not finding the net on a regular basis. Nonetheless, we were totally outplayed all over the park and running like headless chickens for most of the game. We may have missed a couple of players but those that came in, didn't do themselves any favours. The rot stops now.