The FFT S.League Takeaway: Cheetahs show bite to stay in top half while DPMM go seven clear

FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan rounds up all the action as we look back on an interesting 11th week of the 2014 S.League season...

Young Lions find their groove  

Things are looking up for the Courts Young Lions.

After an impressive 3-0 thrashing of Hougang United two weeks ago, they followed up with yet another creditable result – holding title pretenders Home United to a 1-1 draw.

It was no easy feat trying to keep the likes of Lee Kwan-Woo, Bruno Castanheira and Fazrul Nawaz quiet, but that was exactly what Aide Iskandar’s charges managed to do. The influence of Delwinder Singh and Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman at the back proved crucial once again in what is slowly becoming a solid Young Lions defense. 

If not for Yasir Hanapi’s brilliant equaliser just before the break, they could have even gotten all three points from this game. There are plenty of positives to take away; the young Singaporeans end the first round of fixtures on a high note, with seven points from their last four games. They have also only failed to score in two of their 11 games so far.

There is reason enough to believe that they can end the season outside the bottom two.

Match Details: Young Lions 1 Home Utd 1

Razip’s boys want to play in the S.League

The talk of the town last week was whether the Harimau Muda B squad deserved their spot in the league after their failure to collect a single point in the opening 10 matches.

There was therefore no better time for the young Malaysians to stand up and be counted.

Against an inconsistent Woodlands Wellington side, they sensed the perfect opportunity to get this particular monkey off their backs. Dominating the first half through their industrious play, they duly took the lead just before the hour mark through Ramzi Sufian’s deflected close-range shot.

After their various trials and tribulations this season, they were not about to let this go so easily. The defence led by Ashmawi Yakin managed to shut out Chang Jo-Yoon and company to claim their much-awaited first win of the season.

The Malaysian boys have proved that they have the potential to produce the goods. The only problem now is how to replicate that on a regular basis.

Match Details: Harimau Muda 1 Woodlands 0

Rafi’s Stags show fight but cannot keep going behind

You can never simply write off Tampines Rovers.

Over the past two seasons, we have seen them cope with a revolving door of coaches and foreign players with ease and the end result has always been the same - they eventually win the league.

This game against the Warriors was a perfect example. They looked dead and buried by half time; the uniformed side blasted in two goals within three minutes and could have gone three up if not for the aid of the woodwork.

A change of formation and perhaps some ‘hairdryer treatment’ dished out by interim coach Rafi Ali saw the tide turn in the other way. Aleksandar Duric nodded in an Anaz Hadee cross, Miljan Mrdakovic stabbed home an Imran Sahib ball and they looked like they are the side more likely to go on and win the game.

It was perhaps unlucky that defender Abdil Qaiyyim deflected home Marin Vidosevic’s header in the 89th minute, but they eventually rescued a point six minutes into injury time as substitute Matthew Abraham pressured Vidosevic into clearing into his own goal.

This is the second time this season they have rescued a point at such a late stage of the game. Nevertheless, they have to stop giving the initiative to opponents and make life difficult for themselves.

Match Details: Tampines 3 Warriors 3 

Kwok stunner overshadows handy White Swans win

It is incredible how one stunning goal can take precedence over everything that has happened over the course of the 90 minutes.

Geylang International had just suffered a 4-2 defeat to Albirex Niigata (Singapore) but there was literally no one talking about the scoreline after full time.

The attention was all on Eagles midfielder Fabian Kwok’s golazo – a stunning full volley from 50 yards after Albirex Niigata keeper Kazuki Kishigami’s clearance landed in his path.  Footage of the goal made it to various foreign sites and the 25-year-old was an instant hero overnight.

After the furore had died down, perhaps Kwok and the rest of his teammates could only reflect on an opportunity lost to extend their seven-game unbeaten run. A defence-splitting pass by the goalscorer saw Ridhuan Muhammad converting just after half time as they took a 2-1 lead at Jurong East.

However they were unable to hold on as the White Swans came back strongly soon after.  Shuhei Hotta equalized before a Joey Sim own goal and Kento Nagasaki completed the rout, as they pushed nearer to the chasing pack at the top. 

Albirex are now just one point adrift of second-placed Warriors FC and perhaps still have an outside chance of winning the league.

Match Details: Albirex 4 Geylang 2

The real Cheetahs are back

Hougang United have been out-of-sorts lately, but Friday night’s timely 2-1 win over Balestier Khalsa could well prove to be the turning point.

Against a physical Tigers side, the Cheetahs fought tooth and nail for every ball and showed why the likes of Tampines and Home had found it hard to beat them earlier this season.

Both goals may have had an element of luck – Diego Gama’s swirling corner evaded the reach of Balestier keeper Zaiful Nizam, while Syed Thaha’s slip-ups led to Geison Moura tapping home the winner.  But there was no denying the amount of effort they put in to hold off their opponents.

They could have easily lost the game if not for Fadhil Salim’s heroics in goal, which kept marquee man Goran Ljubojevic frustrated for the whole match.

This caps off an amazing turnaround for the Cheetahs who currently sit in the top half of the table and have already collected 17 points this season – 10 points better than at the same stage last season.

If they keep such a high level of performance, then the Hougang HOOLS could see their beloved club attaining their highest-ever league finish.

Match Details: Hougang 2 Balestier 1

Yet another team bites the dust at Bandar Seri Begawan

It looks like nothing can stop the Brunei DPMM express right now.

Six straight wins mean that they are now seven points clear at the summit and it was yet another masterful display at their beloved Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan.

After big wins against Young Lions, Harimau Muda and Balestier there, they did it once again with a 4-0 thrashing of Tanjong Pagar United last week.

There was nothing much Hafiz Osman and company could do to stop the hottest strike partnership in the league. Roy O’Donovan picked up his 10th and 11th goals of the season through with opportunistic strikes, while Rodrigo Tosi also hit double figures for 2014 following a rare header from the former’s cross.

There was even time for forgotten man Shahrazen Said to add the icing on the cake as they continued their stunning home form – 19 goals scored and only two conceded in their last four matches there.

Despite ending the first round of fixtures on such a high, DPMM coach Steve Kean preferred to keep his feet on the ground and mentioned some kinks that they would work on. Such excellence in attitude could propel the Bruneians to their first ever S.League title. 

Match Details: DPMM 4 Tanjong Pagar 0

Main Photo: Alson Ong/FAS