The FFT S.League Takeaway: Protectors hand Warriors a footballing lesson while DPMM stay top

FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan rounds up all the action as we look back on a exciting tenth week of the 2014 S.League season...

Tigers unconvincing in victory

What a relief! At long last, Balestier Khalsa returned to winning ways after a 2-0 win over Harimau Muda.

It was the Tigers’ first win in seven games but apart from the long-awaited three points and keeping a clean sheet, there was not much else for coach Marko Kraljevic to be happy about.

The overall display was disjointed; simple passes were not strung together and players resorted to the long ball far too often. It was something which Kraljevic was clearly unhappy about as he let rip at his players at half time, despite being two goals up.

However things did not improve after the break, and might even have gotten worse. The young Malaysians could have snatched something in the second half if they had taken advantage of their various goalscoring opportunities.

For now at least, the Tigers have closed up the gap between them and the top half to a more manageable two points. On the basis of this display, there will definitely be much scope for improvement before their game against Hougang United next week though.

Match Details: Balestier 2 Harimau Muda 0

Ruthless DPMM continue title charge

So the Brunei DPMM juggernaut rolls on.

Steve Kean’s men notched up their fifth win in a row after dispatching Woodlands Wellington 2-0 last Wednesday.

This was billed as a tough game considering how stubborn the Rams’ defence have been this season, but the Bruneians made the task look easier than expected.

They were in the driving seat after just 12 minutes as Walid Lounis was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident with Roy O’Donovan. Rodrigo Tosi sent Yazid Yasin the wrong way from 12 yards and there was no looking back.

The mercurial Azwan Ali Rahman then continued his impressive form by lashing home a screamer from outside the box on the stroke of half time.

Just like that, DPMM continued their winning streak and simultaneously threw down the gauntlet to the chasing pack. They will finish top of the table at the halfway mark of the season, irregardless of their result against Tanjong Pagar United this coming week.

Match Details: Woodlands 0 DPMM 2

Rafi's Stags still a work in progress

Rafi Ali's reign at Tampines Rovers has kicked off with a fighting draw at Clementi Stadium.

His Stags were pegged back by a solid Albirex Niigata (Singapore) side and had to rely on a late Luis Closa goal to save their blushes.

The new coach's first starting eleven seemed to be a statement of intent for the under-performers – centre back Norihiro Kawakami was left out of the 18, while Aleksandar Duric and Noh Alam Shah had to settle for places on the bench.

Those changes did not seem to have the desired impact though as the defending champions struggled to create any opportunities in the first half. Miljan Mrdakovic continued looking a tad out-of-sorts, having not scored in his last seven matches.

Things gradually improved in the closing stages following the introduction of Duric as they eventually salvaged a point. However one win in their last five league matches is certainly not championship-winning form.

For now, Rafi has it all to do with his charges taking on the likes of Warriors FC and Home United next.

Match Details: Tampines 1 Albirex 1

Geylang, the new draw specialists?

Earlier on this season, Woodlands were seen as the draw specialists.

Based on current form, it looks like Geylang International could very well take over that tag. Jorg Steinebrunner’s men collected their third successive draw after a 1-1 result against Tanjong Pagar United on Thursday night.

The Eagles rallied after falling behind to Ruzaini Zainal’s brilliant volley on 47 minutes and eventually found the breakthrough eight minutes before the end via hotshot Leonel Felice.

It was the Argentinian’s fifth goal in as many games as they extended their unbeaten run under Steinebrunner to seven games.

Things have certainly changed under the German. Instead of being satisfied in staying undefeated for so long, captain Ridhuan Muhammad expressed his disappointment at not collecting a victory via his personal Instagram account.

This is exactly the kind of attitude which every Geylang player should possess as they continue the bid to return to their glory days.

Match Details: Geylang 1 Tanjong Pagar 1

Warriors’ title hopes take a dent

In our S.League Round 10 preview last week, we mentioned that this game against Home United would be a real test of the Warriors’ title-winning credentials.

Well, they did look alright for the majority of the game. Things were fairly even in the first half with Hafiz Rahim levelling matters after Fazrul Nawaz had opened the scoring for the Protectors.

The tide began to turn against them in the second half though with Home’s four-pronged attack of Bruno Castanheira, Fazrul Nawaz, Indra Sahdan and Qiu Li finding much joy in the attacking third, but they managed to hold on as long as they could.  

Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny produced a series of top-drawer stops to keep the scores level, but things eventually fell apart in the final 20 minutes.

Indra scored with two expert finishes following similar low crosses from the left, while Castanheira put the icing on the cake by tapping into an empty net after a superb one-two with Qiu Li.

It is now time for coach Alex Weaver to go back to the drawing board, but at least he can take pride from the tough fight his charges put up against a quality side. That indomitable spirit will stand them in good stead for their next challenge against Tampines.

Miroslav Pejic and his Warriors teammates found themselves outnumbered at times. Photo: Zee Ko

Match Details: Warriors 1 Home Utd 4

Aide's boys show what they're capable of

This has not been the easiest of seasons for this batch of Young Lions, with the majority of the squad in their sophomore year. Expectations have been higher for Sahil Suhaimi and company and it is fair to say they have not lived up to loftier standards in 2014.

Perhaps stung by that fact, the young Singaporeans decided to put on their best performance of this season by thrashing Hougang United 3-0 in their own backyard.

Having seen Harimau Muda giving the Cheetahs a tough fight with their pace in attack, Aide Iskandar tried to exploit the perceived weakness by fielding Sahil, Jordan Webb and Iqbal Hussain in attack. The trio caused many problems for a porous Hougang backline as Sahil and Webb found the net to put their side two goals up at the break.

Sahil eventually added a second through an excellent solo effort to cap off a memorable night, with credit also going to goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari for putting up a defiant show to deny the much-vaunted Cheetahs attack.

It was the perfect morale-booster before a tough game against Home United this coming week.

Match Details: Hougang 0 Young Lions 3