SINGAPORE - As Meridian Secondary School made history at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday (Aug 15) by clinching their first-ever girls' C Division football title, it was captain Nisreen Aziz and Liyana Indah Rickit who stole the show with their goal scoring prowess and silky dribbling skills.
Nisreen was a lively figure up front, taking just eight minutes to open the scoring for Meridian.
She then added a second four minutes later with some neat footwork that took her past several defenders before she coolly slotted the ball into the net, but Queensway Secondary's Bernice Lim pulled two goals back before half-time to level the score.
Meridian went ahead again seven minutes after the break through Putri Amaleeya Hazman, but Queensway responded again with skipper Qarissa Putri Ramadhani Zahary's free-kick four minutes later.
Just as the match seemed destined for extra time, Liyana terrorised Queensway's defence with some mazy runs to score two goals and set up the last to secure a first title for Meridian, which was formed after Coral Secondary and Siglap Secondary merged in 2017.
Monday's 6-3 victory over Queensway also capped a stellar season for Meridian in which they plundered over 60 goals in five matches.
"I feel extremely proud of my team, we did extremely well, we put in a lot of effort, we trained every day and went all out for this," said Nisreen, 14, who finished as the competition's top scorer with 24 goals.
"We really deserved it, we were all very determined and disciplined."
Off the pitch, Nisreen and Liyana, who got to know each other in the national Under-14 team, are good friends.
Such is their love for football that one of their favourite activities to do outside of training is to play football.
In addition to daily school training sessions, they also did their own training over the weekends as well as those with the national youth team.
Whenever she has free time at home, Liyana, 12, will also watch YouTube videos and practise dribbling on her own with cones and working on her ball mastery.
Liyana, whose co-curricular activity in primary school was floorball, said: "We trained hard for it. In the first half, we weren't playing our best but in the second half, our coach woke us up and we were better."
Meridian coach Fabio da Silva praised his charges, saying that it took a lot of hard work and dedication from various parties for them to win the title.
He said: "Once the schools merged, we started from zero - the schools didn't have a history of girls' football. Every year we worked hard and improved and this means a lot to us, for the hard work of the teachers, coaches and players."
While the defending champions were dejected by the loss, Queensway captain Qarissa remained proud of her teammates, especially given that this was the first schools competition for the team since the pandemic struck.
The 13-year-old said: "We came back three times, my team fought very hard. I think we could've won but we were unlucky.
"At the start of the season, I wasn't confident but we fought and didn't give up, and in the end we got to second which I didn't expect we could get."