Ranko-sg-cup-2023Photo: Head Coach Aleksandar Rankovic / Lion City Sailors website

Lion City Sailors were crowned champions of the 2023 Singapore Cup after beating Hougang United 3-1 in a hard-fought final at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night (9 December).

The Singapore Cup victory is the first major silverware that the Sailors have won under Head Coach Aleksandar Rankovic who joined the club in June.

Hougang United led by Head Coach Marko Kraljevic came into the final as defending champions having won the 2022 edition of the Singapore Cup while the Sailors were playing in their first final since their privatization in 2020.

The initial stages of the match were cagey and tightly contested with both sides pouncing on every loose ball.

The deadlock was broken after Hougang United’s Naoki Kuriyama was ascertained to have handled the ball in his own penalty box. A lengthy on field review of the incident was conducted before the referee awarded the Sailors the penalty.

Richairo Zivkovic calmly slotted home the penalty in the 27th minute to take his goal tally for the Singapore Cup campaign to six goals. The Sailors were able to double their lead right before the half-time break when a shot by Maxime Lestienne received a heavy deflection off Hougang’s Irwan Shah to end up in the back of the net.

Most of the second half of the match was full of opportunities for both sides with neither team able to take advantage.

Substitute Shawal Anuar completed the scoring for the Sailors with a well-placed effort in the 81st minute to seal the victory.

Hougang United managed to snatch a consolation goal in additional time through a well-timed header from defender Kazuma Takayama.

Rankovic was very proud of his team’s achievements this season. He said: “I am proud of the boys and what we did this season is great. This is the cherry on the top after changing the coach in the middle of the season and playing in three different competitions and for the local guys to also have to play for the national team. It’s a great finish.”

Lion City Sailors captain and man of the match Hariss Harun also spoke about how proud he is of the team and their performances during their cup campaign.

He said: “It’s massive for us. We deserve to win the cup. We have shown great consistency throughout the cup performances. We did enough to get the result and that’s what matters and hopefully this gives us the impetus to go on to achieve bigger things next season.”

Hougang United coach Marko Kraljevic said that he was proud of his team’s performance despite the result. He said: “I am disappointed with the score but I am proud of the boys. We gave them everything we have but it was just not good enough.”

Earlier that evening, Tampines Rovers defeated Brunei DPMM by 2-0 to finish third. The Stags victory meant that outgoing Brunei DPMM Head Coach Adrian Pennock could not end his reign at the club on a winning note.

Lion City Sailors’ victory in the 2023 Singapore Cup marks the end of the 2023 domestic football season which saw Albirex Niigata (S) retain the AIA Singapore Premier League.