The FFT S.League Takeaway: Cheetahs continue giant-killing ways while Ridhuan helps Eagles soar
Grit at heart of Warriors’ rise
Warriors FC can do nothing wrong at the moment, at least in their beloved Choa Chu Kang Stadium. Alex Weaver’s side collected a fourth straight home win of the season after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Woodlands Wellington.
Much has been spoken about their new-found attacking qualities with the likes of Nicholas Velez, Miroslav Pejic and Hafiz Rahim particularly impressive, but their rise has really been all about the grit and resilience which the team have displayed week in and out.
First, the Warriors had to dig deep to find three late goals to sink Harimau Muda, before defending doggedly against Hougang United for 50-odd minutes after goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was sent off.
And true to form, they did it again on Thursday night. After going ahead through Pejic’s 33rd minute penalty, they maintained their defensive discipline to deny the Rams a possible equaliser.
Four wins out of six and third in the table, the Warriors will go into next week’s clash against Tanjong Pagar United with confidence.
Ridhuan rolls back the years
He was once one of the brightest talents in Singapore and not many could handle the scorching pace he possessed at the peak of his powers. However, after spending four years away from Singapore and now on the brink of hitting the big three in terms of age, there were some doubts whether Muhammad Ridhuan could excel as captain of his new club Geylang International.
Well, the 29-year-old finally managed to silence some of those critics with a masterful display in the 3-0 away win against the Young Tigers.
There was the trademark run down the byline for Leonel Felice to stab home the opener and then the superb swivel before firing home an acrobatic volley just outside the six-yard box. He capped it off late on with a ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ run that led to Aliff Shafaein tapping home the killer goal.
New gaffer Jorg Steinebrunner will hope his skipper continues to turn in some inspired displays over the course of the season as Geylang recover from a horror start.
Jaguars continue to struggle without Ramdani
Alongside marquee man Monsef Zerka, Kamel Ramdani was one of the huge successes of Patrick Vallee’s first year at Tanjong Pagar United as his technical ability proved pivotal in providing the ammunition for the former to grab the goals.
However since the 32-year-old playmaker sustained a long-term injury in the season-opening win against the Young Tigers, the Jaguars has never truly been able to get their act together.
A three-match losing streak was followed up by a much-needed win over Courts Young Lions in the previous round, but that proved to be a false dawn as they were downed 2-1 by Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in Friday’s televised fixture.
As usual, new signing Sebastien Etiemble toiled hard and tried his best in filling in the void left by Ramdani, but it was clear that Vallee’s side were rather bereft of ideas in the attacking third. The Frenchman will hope that his midfield spark recovers as soon as possible as they face the likes of Warriors FC and Home United in the upcoming fixtures.
Protectors find way to win without Lee
Without the services of suspended playmaker Lee Kwan-Woo, there were some concerns over how Home United could overcome a robust Balestier Khalsa. Much ado about nothing, it appears as the hosts proved more than capable of coping without their Korean import who was sat in the stands.
Protectors coach Lee Lim Saeng sprang a surprise by fielding Precious Emuejeraye in the middle of the park alongside Izzdin Shafiq, while pushing Qiu Li into the playmaker’s role. Those tactical switches made their mark as they duly stifled the Tigers.
The pairing of Precious and Izzdin allowed Balestier little time on the ball, while Qiu Li enjoyed his new-found freedom just behind Fazrul Nawaz. With wide man Bruno Castanheira in inspired form, Lee’s side went into the break two goals up and picked up the much-needed three points despite Goran Ljubojevic’s late header.
The win has enabled them to close the gap to the leaders to a more manageable five points before facing Woodlands in their next challenge.
The Stags are Cheetahs’ latest prey
The Cheetahs Express is showing no signs of stopping.
The illustrious likes of Tanjong Pagar, Albirex and Home all dropped points against them, and this weekend was the turn of defending champions Tampines Rovers.
One could argue that fortune played a part as Hougang scored three goals in a remarkable first 12 minutes, but there was no denying the renewed endeavour which the team have continually displayed when playing against the so-called giants of the league.
They had to come from behind for the victories over the Jaguars and the White Swans, while a cavalier approach against Home after the opposition went down to 10 men nearly brought them all three points.
It could have been easy for them to rest on their laurels after Geison Moura’s 7th minute opener this time, but they went for the jugular and were duly rewarded with another two swift goals. That set the tone for the rest of the match, leaving the Stags shell-shocked as Hougang coasted to all three points of the back of that commanding lead.
Coach Amin Nasir and the Hougang HOOLs will hope that their side can continue serving up this kind of spirited performances throughout the season.
SEE ALSO Photo Gallery: Hougang 4 Tampines 2
DPMM vent frustrations on hapless Young Lions
We’re still very much title contenders – that seems to be the message Brunei DPMM wants to send out after their emphatic 6-1 win over Courts Young Lions on Sunday night.
After a spectacular start which saw them pick up three consecutive wins with no goals conceded, it must have been frustrating for head coach Steve Kean to witness his side being frustrated by Tampines and Geylang in consecutive games.
It looked like yet another one of those days when Sherif El-Masri’s shot was cruelly deflected past goalkeeper Wardun Yussof for the opener, but that proved to be a wake-up call for the Bruneians. Rodrigo Tosi and Roy O’Donovan grabbed a brace each, while Roberto Alviz and Azwan Ali also managed to breach Syazwan Buhari’s net.
The win ensured Kean’s men moved within two points of the top and it does not bode well for the Harimau Muda who come visiting next at Bandar Seri Begawan.
Main Photo Credit: Weixiang Lim