24 May 17 The Straits Times by JOHN PRAVIN KANESAN
It was his third and last Schools National A Division boys' football final, and Justin Hui was determined to sign off in style by helping his Meridian Junior College (MJC) side to another title.
And he did just that. Sporting a striking hairstyle, the 19-year-old MJC captain scored a sensational hat-trick to lead his side to a 3-1 victory over rivals Victoria Junior College (VJC) at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
This is MJC's fourth consecutive title win, and ninth in 13 years.
"It feels amazing," said Justin of the latest victory. "Not just because we won, but the journey altogether.
"We didn't really perform as well as we hoped to throughout the season but we managed to step up today."
All the goals came in a nine-minute flurry in the second half, a stark contrast to a lacklustre first half in which both teams struggled to conjure scoring chances.
Said Justin, who was a former National Football Academy player: "The first half was poor. VJC are a physical team, we had to challenge them physically in order to stand a chance."
MJC coach Fabio da Silva was disappointed with the team's play on the wing and made a minor adjustment: "We had a little problem on the first half with the flanks and we wanted to explore the sides.
"We know that Justin has excellent abilities so we pushed him to the right."
Consecutive years Meridian Junior College have clinched the A Division boys' football championship.
Two minutes into the second half, VJC's Marcus Tang was given his marching orders after a second yellow-card offence - and MJC duly capitalised on their numerical advantage with Justin causing all kinds of trouble for the VJC defence down the right flank.
In the 59th minute, Justin broke free of the defence, but was brought down in the penalty area by goalkeeper Kevin Wong. He got up and coolly tucked the ball home.
He said: "The most important thing is to compose yourself. Many players go up, get nervous, and mess the penalty. I just kept myself calm."
However, VJC responded gallantly, equalising within four minutes as Nicholas Chan slotted home from a low cross.
Just as quickly, the momentum swung back in favour of MJC, as Justin - and his deadly right foot - found space to slot in two goals in the next five minutes to seal their win, much to the delight of their loud and boisterous fans.
A delighted da Silva said: "It was very difficult and even though we went 1-0 up, they came back fast to make it level. But the key point is that we were able to come back very fast. The comeback was amazing."
For VJC, it was heartbreak again as they lost to MJC for a second straight year.
Nevertheless, coach Tan Yew Hwee said: "The boys have given their best. We just have to move on. MJC took their chances and they are really the better team."