Central Park could finally celebrate their first victory of the season, claiming the scalp of fellow Division 3 strugglers Singapore Pirates. The narrow win coincided with the return of goalkeeping giant Mizan, whose presence has been sorely missed these past few weeks.
The Sharks were missing Harold who is set to have a long layoff following his groin injury, but Brendan stepped in on the left wing as the boys in yellow reverted to 4-4-2. The game began at a frantic pace, with both sides trying to cope with the fast moving bouncing ball. As expected, the Pirates cut out all the balls in the air, with their two tall centre backs ensuring nothing got past them. The central defenders protected their weak fullbacks, who were consistently beaten for pace.
The Sharks then drew first blood when Jon won the ball inside the opponent’s third and smashed a volley goalward. It looked like a routine catch for the goalkeeper who was well positioned, but he somehow spilled the ball into the net. Chris continued his hot form on the right flank, winning all the balls in the air and flicking onto Isaac and Li effectively. It was through the Aussie forward that CPFC nearly extended their generous lead. With Harold sidelined, Chris requested to take the direct free kicks and this almost paid off handsomely. From some 30 yards, the burly striker struck the dead ball sweetly, only for it to come off the underside of the crossbar.
Mizan was hardly tested in the first half, with the Pirates resorting to long shots which he easily smothered. The back four looked assured in defense, and were hardly stretched as the Pirates front line looked increasingly isolated as the game went on. The Sharks then went two-nil up to solidify their grasp on the game. Jon’s free kick on the edge of the area found Isaac lurking on the near post, and the clinical striker tucked his header away.
Buoyed by the two-goal lead, the Sharks looked more comfortable on the ball in the second half. Karzzan and Jason were introduced and the midfield managed to string their passes together, with Jon and Isaac leading the line. With the Pirates left flank looking suspect, Central Park began to work that channel with Jason providing the crosses for Jon and Isaac. The forwards were tiring however, and Chris and Li came on for them to provide more energy upfront. This worked almost immediately when Brendan, Karzzan and Li exchanged passes, with the latter picking out Chris in space. Despite having time and space, the striker couldn’t hit the ball cleanly and it was gathered up safely by the keeper.
Karzzan’s runs also troubled the Pirates defense as he made several forays down the middle. He exchanged passes with Ryan and Chris, with the former making a smart dash into the box. The diminutive midfielder however couldn’t pick out Karzzan, as the goalkeeper once again cut out the final ball.
The Pirates seemed determined to score and managed to get the Sharks on the defensive. They sustained pressure on the back four with high balls into the final third. Most of these attacks were dealt with comfortably, as the Pirates clearly lacked a dangerous forward. The Sharks defenses finally cracked however, when a mad scramble in the box ended up with a Pirate toe-poking the ball past Mizan.
Despite the goal, the Sharks still won comfortably as the referee blew the final whistle not long after. The win was marred though, by some unsporting behaviour by members of the Singapore Pirates with their number 16 allegedly hurling racist slurs at Karzzan. Central Park will now have to build on this victory with only 6 games remaining. Several more wins are crucial for survival in Division 3.
The relieved manager said, 'We needed something to lift the gloom over the team in the past couple of months and this was the game that the Sharks just had to win. It's only 3 points but it may just prove how crucial it is in the coming months.
When asked about on-field incident involving Karzzan, 'We shall just leave that to administrators.