SINGAPORE - She broke a toe in the first game of the season and played only the last 10 minutes of the Schools National A division girls' football final on Tuesday (May 7) at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
But Shahaf Shalev made her cameo count, scoring the final goal in a 3-0 victory over St Andrew's Junior College to clinch Victoria Junior College's seventh straight title.
"I really wanted to play but, since I'm still injured, my coach only let me play in the last 10 minutes," said the central midfielder.
"The goal made my 10 minutes worth it and I was very happy because I really wanted to play.
"I didn't expect myself to score but, before the match, I told myself that if I get to play today, I'm going to have to make an impact and score a goal and I'm glad that it worked out in the end."
VJC spent most of the 80-minute match camped out in the Saints half, and took the lead in the sixth minute through midfielder Nur Darwisyah, who bundled home after a miscued defensive clearance.
Darwisyah doubled the lead in the 29th minute, and said: "I was shocked and happy that the ball went in (in the sixth minute). I knew that if we scored the first goal, we would eventually score more goals in the game.
"The second goal was a surprise to me because it was from a corner kick. When the ball curved in the net, I was super happy."
The Saints tried to mount a comeback in the second period, with striker Agatha Widjaya foiled by only Victoria's goalkeeper in the 48th minute after dribbling past several defenders. Midfielder Alicia Hia then missed from inside the box in the 63rd minute.
The missed opportunities proved crucial as the clock wound down before Shahaf struck from outside the box two minutes in added time to put the icing on the cake.
VJC captain Isabelle Tay, 17, said that the team were under a lot of pressure to retain their title.
"We were very scared of letting down our seniors and breaking their streak but, in this match, we didn't just play for ourselves or our school, we also played for our seniors who have helped us during our training. When the final whistle was blown and we won, I was so happy."
Despite the loss, Saints captain Sarah Lum, 17, was proud of her team for making it to the final for the first time since 2011.
"Coming into the competition this year, we had no expectations, we just aimed to play our best and that brought us here," she said.
"Even though we didn't win today, we didn't give up until the end and I'm proud of my team.
"Second place is a big enough achievement for us."
Hwa Chong Institution beat Raffles Institution 1-0 to finish third.