National Team - Lionesses ● Jul 19, 2023
Dream debut as Farah Nurzahirah scores winning goal
Farah Nurzahirah (jersey number 10) celebrates her goal with her teammates, 18 July 2023.
SINGAPORE, 18 JULY 2023 – Farah Nurzahirah started the night on the bench, but little did she know that by the end of the night, she would achieve not just one, but two significant milestones in her footballing journey – scoring her first international goal while earning her first senior cap. As if that was not remarkable enough, her goal was the only solitary strike that secured a victory for Singapore at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Lionesses faced a formidable Pakistan side throughout the duration of the match, with both teams jousting for possession during much of the first half. Multiple goal-scoring opportunities were made by the Lionesses in the opening 45 minutes, however the Pakistanis proved to be a tough nut to crack deadlock with the likes of its sturdy custodian Nisha Ashraf, defenders Sara Khan and captain Maria Jamila Khan keeping Singapore at bay. Five minutes into the game, midfielder Sitianiwati Rosielin took a shot from outside the box, only for it to land right into Nisha’s hands. Defender Venetia Lim’s long-range pass from the halfway line 16 minutes later saw captain Rosnani Azman attempting a header, only to be thwarted by Nisha, as forward Nicole Lim was just little too late to convert the rebound into a goal.
Farhanah Ruhaizat with the ball, with Pakistani forward Isra Khan following closely behind, 19 July 2023.
After a tense, goalless first half, the second half saw intensified, spirited gameplay from both sides, as they were determined to end the stalemate. Farhanah Ruhaizat received a delightful through ball from Sitianiwati in the 61st minute, before playing it back to Sitianiwati to be through on goal. However, midfielder Suha Hirani came in with a sliding tackle, denying the Lionesses yet another chance at a goal.
The Lionesses dialled up on their aggression, pressing higher on the pitch – Farhanah shot a through ball to debutant and fellow midfielder Sarah Zu’risqha in the box in the 69th minute, only for the 17-year-old to be tackled by Hirani who was putting in a stellar shift in midfield. A minute later, striker Nicole Lim attempted a shot from the right, but Misha once again made a crucial save. Nicole, who has been closely shadowed by the Pakistani defence throughout the match, succumbed due to an injury, and was duly replaced by Farah.
Nicole Lim goes head-to-head with Pakistani defender Mishal Akram for the ball, 19 July 2023.
Just eight minutes later, Farah’s moment arrived – Sarah swung in a deft cross from the corner, which found its way to the number 10. The nimble forward took her chance and reacted quickest to the ball as she fired her side to a win. The Lionesses held out till the final whistle to maintain their lead, with custodian Noor Kusumawati, who is only one cap away from her 50th cap, shutting out any hope of a Pakistan comeback.
“I couldn’t think of anything – it’s just pure happiness”, Farah beamed as she recalled the moment after she scored. “I’ve dreamt of this moment since I started playing football, so it’s surreal to see this finally coming true for me,” the forward, who recently took part in the AFF Women’s U-19 Championships in Palembang, Indonesia early this month, added.
There were many other positives to take away from home camp as well. Four players – Chloe Koh, Natasha Naszri, Sarah, and Farah – have now earned their first international cap in the senior team. Rosnani, who has now earned her 37th cap for the country, also achieved her first win in her first match on home ground as team captain.
Sarah Zu’risqha were among the four who earned their first senior international cap, 19 July 2023.
Rosnani, who was Man-of-the-Match, shared in the post-match conference that she felt the “pressure” of captaining the team for the first time in a home match as it was played on home ground, but was proud of her team’s performance: “I am quite impressed with my teammates’ performances, and that we managed to keep a clean sheet. Most importantly, we kept pushing and encouraging one another to keep doing our best and secure the win”.
Head Coach Karim Bencherifa shared his thoughts over the team’s performance last night: “It’s good to see a few things we worked on during training paid off during the match, and I am fairly satisfied with the result today. We had a good start (to the game) where we put our opponents under pressure […] then a very slow end to the first half. At half-time, I asked the players, ‘which of these two teams will be tired and give up first? In the second half, it was not physical anymore, but rather mental. We were mentally stronger, more ready and consistent throughout.”
He added the team remains humble, insisting that there’s still more work in progress: “However, we are humble – we are a young squad with a lot of potential and a big margin of progression. There’s still a lot more for us to achieve, and hopefully, slowly, step by step, we can put up a good performance in the upcoming Asian Games, and ultimately reach our bigger goal, which is to be a strong contender during the 2025 SEA Games.”
Singapore: Noor Kusumawati, Farhanah Ruhaizat (Chloe Koh 87’), Raudhah Kamis (Sarah Zu’risqha 46’), Sarah Zu’risqha (Natasha Naszri 90’+2), Sitianiwati Rosielin (Ho Hui Xin 73’), Venetia Lim, Irsalina Irwan, Khairunnisa Anwar, Umairah Hamdan, Dhaniyah Qasimah, Rosnani Azman, Syazwani Ruzi, Nicole Lim (Farah Nurzahirah 73’)
Unused subs: Beatrice Tan, Rochelle Chan, Adrianna Hazeri
CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE