The FFT S.League Takeaway: Cheetahs create waves again while DPMM continues to fly high

 FFT Singapore's Kenneth Tan with some important snippets from an exciting third week of action back in the S.League... 

Oops, the Cheetahs did it again

In our 6 Spicy Questions last week, we questioned Hougang United’s ability to maintain their fine start following injuries to both first choice centre backs. The Cheetahs answered our queries in emphatic fashion, dispatching opponents Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in an impressive 3-1 victory.

Having to deploy Wahyudi Wahid and debutant Firman Hanif in the absence of Igor Cerina and Durica Zuparic, it got worst before it got better when first choice goalie Fadhil Salim had to come off just before the break with a finger injury. A goal down by then, Hougang rallied the troops and somehow hit back with three of their own.

Two successive come-from-behind victories against title-chasing sides, with seven points collected from three games thus far – there isn’t much the Cheetahs are doing wrong at the moment. If they can continue to show such consistency and resilience in their matches, no one will bet against them achieving a top-six finish at the end of the season.

Jury still out on Weaver’s Warriors

Two wins out of three in his first full season with the club – this looks like a decent record so far for Alex Weaver. However, odd as it sounds, the young Englishman still has a fair bit of work on his hands if he wants to restore the club back to their former glory.

Dominating much of the proceedings against the Young Tigers, his Warriors could and should have been at least a couple of goals up by half time. However, they left it as late as the 80th minute when a Kevin McCann belter from distance broke the Malaysians’ resistance. Two further goals added the gloss on a victory which pushed them to a flattering fifth in the S.League standings.

They will need to improve on their ability to kill off games in their upcoming matches, starting from next week’s clash against Weaver’s former employers, Hougang.

Rams’ resilience fails to bring first win

How do you assess Darren Stewart’s first three games in charge of Woodlands Wellington? FFT is facing a conundrum just like fans of the Rams.

Defensive frailties meant Stewart's side have fallen behind in every game thus far, but credit has to be given to the way they played themselves back into the contest each time. Goals from Taufiq Ghani and Moon Soon-Ho earned a point for Woodlands against Hougang despite falling behind twice, while Chang Jo-Yoon’s stunner salvaged another against Balestier after conceding just four minutes before.

They did it once again against Courts Young Lions on Thursday night after trailing twice due to Shamil Sharif’s brace. First it was big centre back Milos Jevtic who produced a brilliant overhead kick before Chang glanced a header home four minutes before the end.

Three games played, three goalscoring draws, three points accumulated – coach Darren will hope to savour his first win in charge of the club when they visit Tanjong Pagar next. 

Tigers reinvigorate unlikely title charge  

Balestier Khalsa’s title dreams are still very much on track.

It was a real dampener to drop points against Woodlands the last time out after an impressive four-goal mauling of Courts Young Lions in their season opener, but that disappointment has been put to bed with a slender victory over fellow title hopefuls Tanjong Pagar United.

Marquee man Goran Ljubojevic found his range early in the game through a stunning 25-yard effort that looped over Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson and from then on, the Tigers had to ride their luck to secure their second win in three games.

 At the post-match press conference, rookie coach Marko Kraljevic hinted that he was happy for his side to scrape to more victories like this throughout the season if it meant staying in the thick of things in the title race. With playmaker Park Kang-Jin back to full fitness and Ljubojevic firing on all cylinders, things do look good for their championship-winning ambitions at the moment. 

Kean’s DPMM revolution continues

Three games played, three wins and three clean sheets – if anyone was doubting Steve Kean’s ability in football management, they might have to lay low for now. 

The former Blackburn Rovers manager had received many brickbats during his coaching career in England, but he can do no wrong in his short stint at Brunei DPMM thus far. Friday night’s televised game against Home United was dubbed as the real test to his coaching qualities, but he overcame that easily with a comfortable 3-0 victory.

The foreigners were once again influential; the partnership of former Sunderland forward Roy O’ Donovan and Brazilian forward Rodrigo Tosi upfront proved to be too much for the Home defence to handle, with the former grabbing a brace of headed goals. Meanwhile at the back, Boris Raspudic nullified the Protectors and kept goalkeeper Wardun Yussof’s jersey largely unstained.

Top of the table at the end of Round 3, they will certainly be going into this Sunday’s Grand Slam clash between them and defending champions Tampines Rovers at Bandar Seri Begawan full of confidence.

No light at the end of the tunnel for Eagles

If DPMM is enjoying a fairy-tale start to 2014, the opposite must be said of Geylang International’s season thus far. Whatever can go wrong has indeed gone wrong for the Eagles in their opening three games.

First, there was the fiasco of having only three substitutes named on the bench in their season-opener against Warriors. Next came the calamitous defending which led to a 4-1 thrashing against Home United last time out.

Then in Sunday night’s three-goal defeat to Eastern neighbour Tampines, they had to place second-choice goalkeeper Siddiq Durimi at centre-back with Japanese defender Yuki Ichikawa not available for selection. Admirable as his performance might be, the 25-year-old was unable to stop goals from leaking in. By half time, the damage has already been done and only profligacy from the Stags forwards prevented a larger defeat.

After the game, coach Kanan Vedhamuthu admitted that he could be the first coaching casualty of this S.League season if things were to not improve in the near future. A failure to pick up any points against the Young Lions in this ensuing week could very well make that reality.

Read Also: 6 Spicy Questions for Round 3 • FFT S.League Team of the Week

Main Photo Credit: Chris Harvey