Shaiful concedes penalty, scores winner then gets injured celebrating
Warriors FC off to winning start in new S.League season thanks to converted midfielder's late winner
|BALESTIER KHALSA||WARRIORS FC|
|(Raihan Rahman 27-pen)||(Jordan Webb 48-pen, Shaiful Esah 88)|
He went from villain to hero, and then onto a stretcher.
But Shaiful Esah will no doubt be delighted at helping his Warriors FC side get off to a winning start in this season's Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League last night.
The 30-year-old's late goal capped a 2-1 comeback win over Balestier Khalsa in front of almost 2,000 fans at the Toa Payoh Stadium.
Unfortunately for the former national team player, his joy was curtailed when he pulled his hamstring after teammate Kento Fukuda leapt on him as they celebrated the goal.
While he ended the game on the sidelines with an ice pack strapped to his right thigh, Shaiful was relieved with the team's turnaround.
For it was his challenge on Balestier's Myanmarese forward Aung Kyaw Naing that gifted the home side a penalty in the 27th minute, which Raihan Rahman tucked away.
But Warriors were awarded a penalty of their own just three minutes into the second half, after Sheikh Abdul Hadi barged Jordan Webb over in the box.
The Canadian winger dusted himself off and fired home the equaliser without fuss.
Just when it looked like the two sides would settle for a point, up popped Shaiful with the winner, getting his head on a Shahril Ishak free-kick and unintentionally sending it looping over Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam.
Zaiful almost grabbed the headlines in injury time when he strode up the pitch to take a free-kick, but his curler from 20 metres out crashed off the upright.
Shaiful told The New Paper: "I feel relieved. But looking at the way we played and kept attacking Balestier, it was a matter of time we got our goals.
CHARACTER OF TEAM
"The win shows the character of our team. Everybody never gave up and never stopped fighting for the three points."
The left back-turned-midfielder admitted, however, he had Lady Luck to thank for his goal.
"I was trying to get a touch on the ball to flick it backwards, and I wasn't even facing the goal, so I didn't know the ball had gone in," he sheepishly said.
"It was only until I saw Shahril celebrating and the others chasing me that I knew.
"I want to dedicate this goal to the late Albert Lim, the Warriors' No. 1 fan who passed away recently, as well as to my late uncle Haji Isra Haji H'wan who passed away this morning."
Warriors coach Razif Onn, while happy with the three points, admitted his side were not at their best.
"It's fantastic to start the season with a win and our players put in a lot of effort," he said.
"But our winning goal came very late and we were very fortunate from the free-kick.
"It also surprised me that Balestier's long balls caused some trouble in our backline. We have to work on that."
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic, meanwhile, was pleased despite the defeat.
"I'm happy with the performance," said the German-born Croat.
"Our three new Myanmarese boys worked very hard and they will get better. It's disappointing to lose when we were 1-0 up, but that is football sometimes."