The FFT S.League Takeaway: Warriors cut DPMM’s lead to two while Harimau Muda climb off bottom

 FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan rounds up all the action as we look back on Week 24 of the 2014 S.League season…  

Warriors show hunger for title, but need to be more consistent

The title race took another twist on Tuesday evening when Warriors FC unexpectedly won 3-2 away to Brunei DPMM at Bandar Seri Begawan.

Falling behind after Roy O’Donovan’s 23rd-minute opener, coupled with the absence of key players Zulfadli Zainal Abidin and Thomas Beattie, lesser teams could have crumbled but not the Warriors. They rallied together together and scored three goals in 18 minutes to turn the game around.

Despite Shahrazen Said’s late consolation, there was no seperating the Warriors from a hard-earned three points which cut the deficit at the top of the table.

Such an impressive performance is in stark contrast to their display just six days ago. Playing Balestier Khalsa at home, the Warriors never really got going and eventually lost the game after Goran Ljubojevic’s beat Hassan Sunny from the penalty spot.

If the Warriors had won that game, it could have been them at the top of the table right now. With just three games to go, Alex Weaver’s men can ill-afford to drop any more unnecessary points if they want to win the title.

Cracks appearing for DPMM

All of a sudden, Brunei DPMM are stumbling as we reach the pointy end of the season.

With their nearest challengers all dropping points one after another, the Wasps were in the driving seat. It was all really simple – win the next two games and they will be crowned champions.

However the Warriors failed to read the script as they stole a come-from-behind win in Bandar Seri Begawan, leaving DPMM gaffer Steve Kean with much to ponder during this international break.

This was their second straight home defeat and the third successive time they have lost after taking the lead. With no wins in their last four games, the former Blackburn Rovers manager has his work cut out for him.

The Warriors are now breathing down their necks and they will conclude the season with two tough away games against Albirex Niigata (Singapore) and Tampines Rovers. Thus DPMM's next game against Balestier Khalsa is now nothing less than a ‘must-win’ for them.

Home forwards misfire again as Protectors lose ground

Home United's inconsistent ways have proved hard to shake this season. A week after the stunning comeback victory against Brunei DPMM which sent them into the RHB Singapore Cup final, they fell to a lowly 1-0 defeat against title rivals Tampines Rovers at home which left five points adrift of the top.

While the result is disappointing, what should be more alarming is perhaps that their forwards had once again failed to find the net.

Bruno Castanheira has not scored in seven matches and was guilty of missing at least three clear-cut chances on Thursday night; Fazrul Nawaz has no goals in five games, and one has to go back all the way to early July for the last time Indra Sahdan or Qiu Li found the net.

While the likes of Sirina Camara, Song In-young and Kwon Da-kyung have been bailing them out lately, Lee Lim Saeng will need his front men to find their scoring boots and reignite their flagging title hopes.   

Balestier on the ascendancy

No doubt, this is a good time to be a Balestier Khalsa fan.

The Tigers seem to have grown from strength to strength since securing a spot in the top six; suffering just one defeat in their last eight games and reaching the RHB Singapore Cup final for the first time in their history.

After two tough games for them in the past week, they have not only managed to emerge unscathed but also collected maximum points.

First they sank the Warriors via a late Ljubojevic penalty and some superb rear guard action, before claiming Albirex as their next victims in a dominant 2-0 victory.

Once again, it was Ljubojevic with the goals as he increased his tally to 20 for the season, while the returning Paul Cunningham looked imperious at the back in his first start after a long hiatus.

All this bodes well for the Tigers as they set their sights on a top-three finish before Cup Final day.

Young Tigers prove that nothing is impossible  

This was not exactly the easiest season for the Harimau Muda B squad as they kicked off with 10 straight losses. Heavy defeats were the norm and there were question marks raised as to whether they deserved their slot in the league.

Fast forward several months and Razip Ismail’s boys can hold their heads up high after pulling off what seem unthinkable in the initial stages of the season. Successive wins against Courts Young Lions and Hougang United meant they have earned enough points to climb off the bottom.

Credit has to be given to the Malaysians for rarely letting the huge scorelines or harsh headlines get to their heads, as they continued to go about their business quietly and let their boots do the talking.

With two of the three remaining games to be played at home, the young Tigers now have a proper chance of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon this season.

What’s wrong with the Rams?

It is amazing how much difference a year can make in football.

At this stage last season, Woodlands Wellington were having one of their best seasons and on the way to sealing fifth spot.

Fast forward to October 2014 and the Rams are limping towards the finish line instead.

Salim Moin’s side have been in wretched form of late; with just one win and one draw in their last 10 competitive games. To make matters worse, that solitary win came all the way back in mid-July when they overcame amateur club Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) in the League Cup group stages.

It was the same old story against Geylang lnternational last Friday as they fell to yet another defeat. The defence was found wanting on several occasions, as veteran goalie Yazid Yasin made series of impressive saves but ultimately powerless to prevent two from going in. In attack, Moon Soon-Ho and Chang Jo-Yoon failed to show the spark in their link-up play of yesteryear.

The Rams are now just a point in front of new cellar dwellers Young Lions and could easily get sucked to the bottom if not careful.

Photo: Sapyri/Football Association of Singapore