Hong Kah pip SJI in football clash
Beaten SJI face anxious wait to see if they can still advance
NATIONAL SCHOOLS FOOTBALL 'B' DIV CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINALS, GROUP B
HONG KAH SECONDARY 1 (REZZA REZKY 69)
ST JOSEPH'S INSTITUTION 0
It was a clash between last year's National Schools 'B' Division football championship finalists when Hong Kah Secondary School met St Joseph's Institution (SJI) in the quarter-finals yesterday.
While defending champions Hong Kah could not replicate last year's barnstorming performance that helped them clinch their third title in four years, they still scraped past a tenacious SJI side 1-0 at Hong Kah's football field, courtesy of a 69th-minute strike by midfielder Rezza Rezky.
Hong Kah's victory sees them with one foot firmly into the semi-finals after successive wins, while SJI's fate depends on results elsewhere after their second defeat, with one game left to play.
However, SJI, who reinstated football as a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) just five years ago, gave a good account of themselves as they pushed their opponents all the way.
Under the stewardship of former Singapore international Kadir Yahaya, SJI claimed their first football title in 30 years when they beat Queensway Secondary School to win the South Zone "B" Division championship last April and have been a growing force since.
Hong Kah coach Mohamed Zainudeen acknowledged this fact.
"Credit must definitely go to SJI. They always give us a very tough game whenever we play and they competed until the very end today," he told The New Paper after the match.
"The fact that it is the fasting period now and yet some of the boys who are fasting from both teams still gave it their all, especially with today's weather is no joke.
"So, definitely credit to SJI who gave us a tough fight and credit to our boys who managed to get the victory."
The first half was a cagey affair under the scorching afternoon heat with both sides reluctant to go on the offensive.
But it all changed when both teams came out with guns blazing after the interval.
SJI could have opened the scoring minutes after the restart when Naeemur Rahman's swerving free-kick caused panic in the Hong Kah penalty box, but goalkeeper Hifzhil Iman did well to punch the ball away to safety.
Those in attendance were treated to end-to-end action from then on, as both sides threw everything they had at each other.
In the end, it was Rezza's moment of magic 11 minutes from time that separated the teams.
The 16-year-old jinked past several challenges before rifling home an unerring shot into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of SJI goalkeeper Julian Lowe.