National Football League Division 1
SKA vs Warwick Knights FC
Date: 23 March 2019
Venue: Bukit Gombak Stadium
Khalsa Football kicked off their NFL Division 1 campaign against newly-promoted side Warwick Knights FC at the Bukit Gombak Stadium. The match, played under well-light floodlights, began with just as much fervour as one would expect.
The first chance of the game, however, fell in favour of the Warwick Knights in just under 3 minutes. A corner that was headed down smartly for Hilmi Azman was struck way over the bar. Khalsa having survived that initial scare, got ahold of their nerves and started playing the ball around with much more assurance. Their efforts were well rewarded in the 34th minute when Khalsa opened the scoring via Ignatius Wang. A lofted through ball from Taufik Jiahuddin found its way to Shahrukh, who kept his composure to set up Ignatius for the finish, despite seeing his initial shot being parried by the Warwick Knights keeper. The Knights then went close on a couple of occasions, only to see their efforts go agonisingly wide due to some poor finishing. The Knights came closest to equalizing on the stroke of halftime, when a free kick that was floated in almost ended up in the back of the net, only to be cleared off the line by Krishnan.
The second half began with a renewed vigour as both teams came out of the tunnel, raring to go. Substitues Oswind Suriya and Carman Koh combined well to conjure a chance down the right flank, but the resulting cross was well blocked and the ball drizzled out for a corner kick. Mathew Siva, who proved to be a real handful for the Warwick defenders throughout the tie, consistently beat the onrushing full backs, gaining Khalsa much ground higher up the pitch. Warwicks next chance fell to Nuri Irfan down the right flank but the resulting shot by Nur Hafiz Rezuan's was well-saved at the near post by the Khalsa goaltender Suhail Salim. Khalsa then went close to scoring on the 68th minute when Taufik Jiahuddin's free kick from outside the area thumped the crossbar. The deciding moment of the match came soon after on 80 minutes when Mathew Siva was needlessly brought down inside the area by a Knights defender, winning Khalsa a crucial penalty. Taufik Jiahuddin then all but sealed up the 3 points by cooly slotting home the resultant spot kick.
The Knights were not quite done as of yet and still surged forward in search of a goal that would bring the tie back into a balance. A free kick from Hafiz Osman rocked the crossbar and the Knights continued to pour men forward in search of that all elusive goal. It seemed as though their efforts were going to be rewarded when Afeez Zulhaikel's free kick sailed over the wall and flew towards the top corner but Khalsa custodian Suhail Salim pulled off a majestic save to keep the teams' clean sheet intact. The referee blew the final whistle soon after, much to the delight of the Khalsa contingent, players and supporters alike. Khalsa take home all 3 points in this explosive opening fixture between the two promoted sides with a well deserved 2-0 victory.
- Ashwin Unnithan (21)