Woodlands Wellington back in 1996

Boban goal separates top pair in classic game

30,000 turn up at National Stadium
By Godfrey Robert

They came to watch two of Singapore’s best footballing sons, Fandi Ahmad and V.Sundramoorthy, and a pair of attractive S-League soccer sides, Geylang United and Woodlands Wellington, on parade.

They saw an absorbing match, inundated with tight tackling, full of no-nonsense aerial challenges, and spiced with the gentlemanly handshake and arm extentions for helping a player after he had been felled.

And the majority of the 30,000 crowd concurred that last night’s National Stadium match was a classic – a superb advertisement for Singapore’s first professional league.

A 20,000 turnout built up to 30,000 just before halftime, and the thousands who came after 35 minutes certainly missed a gem of a goal by Woodlands’ Ervin Boban that separated the sides.

Sundram collected a loose ball, checked once before sending a low ball to the bubbly Boban, who hammered home a muscular volley that ricocheted off the woodwork into goal as David Lee and company stood rooted.

The towering ex-Johor striker, who had scored important goals in the Malaysia Cup final, raised his right index finger as his team-mates pounced on him in ecstacy.

The Woodlands bench celebrated with high-fives as their supporters went wild with euphoria.

And they would have confirmed their well-deserved triumph if Boban had been sharper with his twisting right foot off a superb pass by Jan Janostak in the 72nd minute.

Boban aside, Woodlands had more committed players; from skipper Sundram to midfield dynamo Joe Caleta and the steady Darren Davis in defence.

In fact, Sundram, roving in midfield showed surprising defensive qualities as he tackled hard – once even bringing down Fandi – and once even heading away a dangerous corner.

But Geylang had its chances too.

The best came in the 75th minute when A.R.J. Maran cleared from the goalline after goalkeeper Sandro Radun was left in no-man’s land.

And in the heart of the Geylang defence was Iranian Mohammed Khakpour, without whom it seemed as though Boban, Janostak and Caleta would have had a field day.

But where Geylang failed was in the attacking department where Zlatko Vidan and Kimmo Tarkkio were tentative and without fire.

Geylang, not unduly disturbed by a small fracas after Caleta was fouled, brought in former international Ahmad Ibrahim for defender Chua Aw Kwang in the last five minutes to beef up the attack.

But Woodlands’ Maran and Borhan Abu Samah ensured that the scoreline remained.

And even when Sundram, who also received a yellow card, missed with a sitter after a cheeky dribble, from a superb pass from Janostak in the 87th minute, the Woodlands supporters did not mind.

At the final whistle they chanted “Sundram, Sundram” as they hugged their skipper on a night when Geylang was subdued and Woodlands was superb.

A disappointed Geylang coach Jalal Talebi felt that his team lost because it was put off by the long balls and physical play of Woodlands.

The fixtures, in which his team has to play three games in six days, did not help in his planning for each match.

Match details:

Geylang United 0 Woodlands Wellington 1
Scorers – Woodlands: Ervin Boban (35th min)
Yellow cards – Geylang: Kimmo Tarkkio (7th), Chua Aw Kwang (19th), Kadir Yahaya (50th). Woodlands: V.Sundramoorthy (67th)
Man of the Match: Ervin Boban

Teams

Geylang: David Lee, Mohamad Khakpour, Chris Riley, Sudiat Dali, Chua Aw Kwang (Ahmad Ibrahim, 85th), Kadir Yahaya, Zulkarnaen Zainal, Hamidreza Estili, Kimmo Tarkkio (Kamalrudin Ismail, 67th), Zlatko Vidan, Fandi Ahmad

Woodlands: Sandro Radun, Darren Davis, Borhand Abu Samah, Mohamed Mardani, Tamil Marren, V. Sundramoorthy, D. Devaraj, A.R.J. Maran, Joe Caleta, Jan Janostak, Ervin Boban

Referee: Zainal Ramli

Crowd: 30,000

[From 50 Greatest Moments in Singapore Football, Page 88]

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