NUS Saints vs BLACKS FC
It was possibly one of the most exciting matches this season. Its a pity for those who could not turn up to watch the spectacle as the fans who turned up would probably have paid to witness one of the classic matches of Div2!
The first period was not smooth sailing at all for the BLACKS, who increasingly have a reputation as habitual slow starters, when NUS Saints went 2 goals up within minutes of the start. They scored the 2 goals with good buildup and hard running, taking BLACKS FC by surprise. After being hit by the goal blitz, BLACKS where shocked into better defending and barely held on for the end of the first period to prevent a further NUS onslaught.
Boosted by the late arrival of their top centre, Ishak, Coach Lionel made some changes to the lineup, pushing Alvin up into his favoured forward role again. Alvin, unshackled from the burden of playing centre this season, seems to be revelling in his role as forward. The move paid off in the 34th minute of the second period when Alvin got 1 goal back to leave the score at the end of the second period at 2-1. The uphill task of getting a goal back while containing the faster and fitter Saints loomed large over the BLACKS during the break, but the players were determined not to go down without a fight.
In the third period, the action heated up with the score see-sawing ridiculously! BLACKS, knowing that a loss would jeopardise their chances of promotion, ran harder and faster than their opponents. Applying full court pressure on the seemingly fitter but less experienced opponents seemed to pay off for the BLACKS.
The hunger showed by the BLACKS reaped dividends for them when Alvin struck again with a tap in to equalise the score at 2 all. However, BLACKS joy was short lived when NUS put another past Wayne after just 18 seconds following Alvin's equaliser, making the score 3-2. But from a free hit, BLACKS' Junming came in from a line change to promptly smash in a slap shot from 8 metres to again equalise for the team! That goal made the fans jump up from their seats in excitement. The score was 3 all. Just when the fans thought the game would tighten up with both teams focusing on not conceding more goals, the two teams decided to run the show their way.
Finally the dark clouds of a poor start seemed to be clearing for BLACKS. From a power play, Arland, who had been having a relatively quiet game, fed Gopi with a good pass and Gopi, reminding himself to keep his shot low and on target, took a shot from 10 metres out and scored to take the score to 4-3 in favour of BLACKS. BLACKS players couldn't believe they'd finally taken the lead for the first time in the game. What a match! However, BLACKS ,with their erratic performances, seem to do everything right at one moment and then everything goes wrong for them in the next. NUS capitalized on a defensive lapse and equalised again when Gopi misjudged a shot that was going wide and while attempting to clear it, accidentally kicked the ball into his own goal. Keeper Wayne was caught off-guard and subsequently, keeper and defender could only shake their heads in disbelieve. The score was 4 all!
Spectators, thinking the match will end this way, were in for a surprise when NUS took the lead with 3 mins left before the final whistle. That goal probably would have killed most teams but not the comeback kings of Div2, whose play is epitomised by their team spirit and never-say-die attitude. With nothing to lose, Coach Lionel showed his tactical experience by taking off Keeper Wayne to play 6 outfield players with 3 mins left on the clock. With the support of the crowd, many who could be said to be new fans who seemed to be thoroughly entertained by the BLACKS performances this season, Lionel's last throw of the dice paid off when the hard working Ishak slalomed his way through the SAINTS' defence and put in a shot which was saved by the NUS goalie. The rebound then dropped into the path of the fox-in-the-box,Alvin, who pounced on it and slotted the ball into the goal to equalise 5 all with the clock showing 59min 19secs, with the fans' rapturous applause threatening to bring the roof down at Tampines Sports Hall. The final whistle eventually came as a relief for the tired players ensuring that they didn't have to play for the 10 all draw! The excitment filled game ended on a high for the BLACKS. While Coach Lionel and the players felt they could have won the match, the draw was still favourable for them, leaving them strongly poised for promotion into Div1 next season.
Like the match, there was also drama and controversy on the sidelines when a NUS supporter was heard blatantly criticizing BLACKS as being a "rough" team when the SAINTS themselves played the same way. Apparently, the supporter did not understand how the game was played and was too hasty in blindly criticizing the BLACKS when one of the NUS players received a cut on the eye due to an accidental clash with one of BLACKS. ("Alamak Auntie, this one not chess club lah...") And that supporter failed to recognise the fact that during the game, when one of the SAINTS players was lying on the floor after an apparent knee injury, Ishak sportingly put the ball out of play. However, kudos to the NUS team for recognising that act of sportmanship by returning the ball to us. While the game seemed rough and the temperature was at boiling point at certain moments, players simply picked themselves up after challenges and carried on in the true spirit of floorball.
One of the players who epitomised the hunger of each and every BLACK during the match and who wanted to win bad enough was Gopi and his tenacity showed in the game, with Lionel naming him the MOM. Keep a lookout for a future interview with this key player from BLACKS FC.