National Teams – Age-group ● Sep 04, 2023

NDC U-15 rue missed chances as BG Pathum triumph on penalties in Lion City Cup 2023 final



The NDC Under-15 squad lose out 3-4 on penalties to BG Pathum United in the Lion City Cup final, September 2023. 



SINGAPORE, 4 SEPTEMBER 2023 – Many in the National Development Centre (NDC) Under-15 squad were keen to face Thailand’s BG Pathum United in the final of the Lion City Cup 2023, and their wish was duly granted. The trophy was 90 minutes away from their grasp but fate had other plans in store, as they succumbed 4-3 in a dramatic penalty shootout to The Rabbits, in front of a 2426-strong crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night (3 September).


The Singapore Under-15 team, in an unchanged lineup from their 3-1 victory match against Selangor FC on Friday, got off to a shaky start, conceding an early own goal just 23 seconds into the game. Defender Ahmad Ilhan Rizqullah’s back pass was misjudged by goalkeeper Jarec Ng, despite his last-ditch attempt to retrieve it as the ball to trickled over the line, handing BG Pathum an early lead.


Forward Uchenna Eziakor in action, with BG Pathum’s defender Benjapon Preston following closely behind, September 2023.


In the 23rd minute, the Cubs had a great chance to equalise when BG Pathum’s goalkeeper, Kittiphob Poomee, was adjudged to have held the ball for too long, resulting in an indirect free-kick for the Cubs inside the box. Nathan Mao took the free kick, as it curled in seemingly destined for the top corner until Kittiphob made an acrobatic save. The Cubs were presented with a second opportunity when Kittiphob lost his grip on the ball, causing it to ricochet in Uchenna Eziakor’s direction. However, the forward misjudged his shot, sending the ball just a few metres wide of the goalpost.


The Cubs displayed unwavering persistence in their quest to find the back of the net, creating numerous opportunities. However, their Thai counterparts stifled them by denying any space or time on the ball, as they executed an effective high defensive press on the NDC-U15 team. The first half concluded with a sense of frustration for the home team.


Forward Nathan Mao, with teammate Sarrvin Raj (right) and defender Phatcharaphon Ronghankaew following behind, September 2023. 


The second half kicked off with renewed vigour as in the 52nd minute, midfielder Andy Reefqy located Nathan on the right flank, sparking excitement among the crowd. The star player, who was Man-of-the-Match in the semi-final, was bound for goal, but to the crowd’s dismay, he could not capitalise on the goal-scoring opportunity as the ball rolled inches away from the goalpost.


Just a minute later, Harith launched a long pass to Nathan, who executed a beautifully arced delivery toward Sarrvin Raj. Unfortunately, the forward’s timing was slightly off, and the resilient Kittiphob thwarted yet another opportunity for the NDC U-15 boys.


Harith Danish Irwan in action, September 2023. 


The Cubs’ suffered misfortune as skipper Illya Naufal was forced to retire from the match with a wrist injury but the desire amongst the players to bring the trophy home was still evident as they sought to get past the setback.


Sarrvin delivered an incredible assist in the 78th minute, but Nathan’s header went off target by a considerable margin. Three minutes later however, the moment came – the Cubs found the equaliser when Nathan’s dangerous corner was deflected into his own net by Kittiphob. The crowd broke into a huge roar of relief and joy as the Singapore side gave renewed hope in winning the title.


Defender Dani Qalish on the ball, September 2023. 


The air was thick with desperation as the Singapore side fervently sought to bolster their goal tally. Nathan came excruciatingly close to clinching a late victory a mere three minutes later, but the Lion City Sailors forward’s free kick struck the crossbar. Six minutes into extra time, Harith took a shot from the halfway line, only to foiled once more by Kittiphob, bringing the second half to a frustrating conclusion with a 1-1 draw.


The match proceeded to a penalty shootout. The Singapore U-15s successfully converted their initial three spot kicks, whereas BG Pathum missed on their third attempt. However, any hopes of the NDC U-15s hoisting the coveted cup aloft were shattered as the Cubs then suffered two consecutive penalty misses, ultimately surrendering the Lion City Cup trophy to the Thai side.


Defender Luth Harith Fathi on the ball, September 2023. 


In the post-match conference, Head Coach Angel Toledano expressed his and the team’s disappointment, but highlighted the boys’ resilience and never-say-die attitude: “We had an unfortunate goal in the first seconds of the game, and they kept fighting and fighting and having possession.”


“And penalties, it is what it is. The boys are 15 years old; they will learn from this experience but I thought we were the better team, we played better football,” the Spaniard added.


Head Coach Angel Toledano and Man-of-the-Match Nathan Mao in the post-match conference, September 2023.


Man-of-the-Match Nathan Mao expressed similar sentiments: “We worked hard. It was a really hard situation because they’re physically strong and they sit back deep well. But we forced the goal, forced the comeback but we couldn’t complete it.”


The 15-year-old added: “I think the lesson is, playing good football doesn’t necessarily mean winning games, so we need to etch into our systems to have that winning mentality. Because at the end of the day, that’s what wins games and that’s football.”


In an earlier match, Selangor F.C secured third place by defeating Borneo United 2-1, courtesy of a first-half brace from 15-year-old forward Muhammad Fahrin Danny.


NDC U-15: Jarec Ng, Luth Harith Fathi, Ahmad Ilhan Rizqullah, Illya Naufal (Shafrel Ariel 70’), Andy Reefqy, Harith Danish Irwan, Uchenna Eziakor (Helmi Shahrol 70’), Dani Qalish, Rae Peh, Nathan Mao, Sarrvin Raj
Subs: Noor Aydrin (GK), Aqif Ariyan, Uday Goshal, Kieran Tan, Damien Chiow, Jaden Heng, Nyqil Iyyan, Ahmad Martin Roslan, Jadon Quah




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