|Posted on November 23, 2015 at 12:25 AM|
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After the inscrutabilities of last weekend, normal service was resumed by Hilderinc Football Club when they overcame Singapore Panthers FC 4-2 in a crucial win in the ESPZEN Sunday League 23.
With both rivals, who hold reciprocal esteem for each other, going through an uncharacteristic term following their promotion from Division 5 last season, where the Panthers pipped the Blacks by two points to win the title, it was a must win game for both sides to keep their respective objectives on track.
The Blacks, with an enfeebled backline, missing their usual centreback pairing of Denis Lobov and Nicholas Ledenmark, had debutants, Michael Shanker and Benoit Herbaut, in a virgin pairing in the heart of defence.
Knowing that the heat will be a major contributing factor in what would already be a sapping encounter, the Blacks handed Tom Lavin his bow in the Hilderinc colours despite his lack of match fitness, while keeping Sashikumar Mahathevan and Logaraj Sundram on the bench in a surprise move.
Having produced classic encounters in the last four meetings, both sides were not for keeping formalities as they went straight into the affairs of the day.
After a tentative opening minutes, the Blacks craved out the first opportunity of the game and had the ball into the back of the net after a good interchange of play between Nicolas Amstutz, Serhat Dalbeyler and Maxence de Poulpiquet, but Nicolas was adjudged to be offside and the goal was ruled out.
However, within 20 seconds of almost taking the lead, the Hilderincs found themselves a shocking goal behind when the direction of a speculative shot from distance was misjudged, allowing it to sneak harmlessly into goal, handing the Panthers an easy advantage.
Not bemoaning the mistake, the Blacks were immediately seeking a way back into the game, and could have levelled the score had Gabir Nabil’s freekick from inside the box, after the Panthers were penalised for a backpass, was not cleared off the line.
The Egyptian hotshot was again involved in trying to equalise but saw his shot saved by the Panthers’ keeper, who had also denied Maxence de Poulpiquet earlier.
Contrary to the Hilderincs’ past experience with the mid-game water breaks, where more often than ever, the Blacks would lose momentum, they turned the tide of the game this time around.
In a tactical move, they brought on Philip Vahn, Sashikumar Mahathevan and Logaraj Sundram, in what would turn out to be a master stroke.
Within four minutes of the switch, the Blacks were level, with two of three entrants involved in the proceedings.
Gaining the ball from an impressive Michael Shanker in his own half, Philip Vahn found Gabir Nabil, who in turn sought out Sashikumar Mahathevan with a weighted ball.
The big striker, using his frame well against the opponents inside the box, volleyed in the equaliser, to the delight of the Blacks.
With parity restored and the arrears cleared, the Hilderincs went for lead before the break, with all department in renew vigour despite the searing heat.
Benoit Herbaut, outstanding alongside Michael Shanker, who played like they were joint at the hips, came close to giving the Hilderincs the lead when he launched himself at a corner.
When the Panthers did manage to find a rare opportunity away from the intense scrutiny of the midfield trio of Serhat Dalbeyler, Philip Vahn and Kavin Singh, who was introduced to stifle the opponents for good measure, his first competitive game in over two years; Gopal Peethambaran redeemed himself from his earlier mistake but pulling off a fine save with his outstretched leg.
As with the first Hilderinc goal, Philip Vahn and Gabir Nabil were at the heart of the move, finding each other with perfection.
Gabir Nabil, who moved to the top of the HFC Player of the Season race with his exceptional goal return, added another assist to the count, when he set up Logaraj Sundram with a neat one two before the lanky forward found the net in typical fashion for his fourth goal of the season, giving the Hilderincs the lead going into the break.
The Blacks wasted little time from the restart, coming close to another Sashikumar Mahathevan goal, after Serhat Dalbeyler found him with a pin point freekick from inside his own half, but the forward’s goal bound headed was cleared off the line from underneath the crossbar.
However, keeping the pressure on the Panthers from the resultant corner, Benoit Herbaut won the Blacks a freekick in a dangerous position.
And with Serhat Dalbeyler floating a precise ball, the Frenchman capped his remarkable debut with a well-placed header, extending the Hilderincs’ lead, leaving the Panthers disconcerted.
In a half which was pretty much a stop start affair with the referee pulling play back for the slightest of infringements, both teams were starved of their usual fluidity, and with the unfavourable weather conditions, they could be forgiven for their reservation at times.
There was, however, no denying the Blacks their day as they added a comprehensive fourth through Sashikumar Mahathevan, who profited from the tenacious Benoit Herbaut, who completed his man of the match performance with an assist after sliding a through ball under tackle for the hitman to get his brace.
Mystifyingly, the Blacks’ recent association with the woodwork continued into the second game in a row after Philip Vahn’s tantalising attempt cannoned off the crossbar, while seconds later, Serhat Dalbeyler’s glided shot smacked the post, making it seven times in two games.
With a 4-1 lead and the substitution quota reached, mainly enforced by the weather in the second half, the Blacks decided to hold garrison, highlighting their defensive fortitude in the face of the anxious Panthers, who missed several chances due to the lack of their normal composure in front of goal.
Having done well in keeping the Panthers at bay, a relatively easy goal reduced the Hilderincs’ goal difference, though Logaraj Sundram was just inches away from restoring the three goal lead when his typical run on goal and finish saw the shadow of the post before drifting out of play.
After the shock of last week, the Hilderincs showed great courage and resolve to bounce back against one of the better teams in the division, and with a date with the current league leaders and team to beat, Teban Thunders FC coming up next, it will take even more focus from the Blacks to ensure that they do not break momentum again, going into the final stretch.
Hilderinc FC 4 : Singapore Panthers FC 2
Goals: Sashikumar Mahathevan (2), Logaraj Sundram, Benoit Herbaut
MOM: Benoit Herbaut
Starting Line Up
1. Gopal Peethambaran
2. David Zheng
3. Benoit Herbaut
4. Michael Shanker
5. Alex Wong
6. Maxence De Poulpiquet
7. Serhat Dalbeyler
8. Tom Lavin
9. Gabir Nabil
10. Ian Morris
11. Nicolas Amstutz
12. Parthiban Aruchamy
13. Chua Yuxuan
14. Sashikumar Mahathevan
15. Leslie Eng
16. Logaraj Sundram
17. Philip Vahn
18. Kavin Singh
19. Kumaresan Maniam
Categories: Match Day