FFT's Five Finds: Tampines have the look of champions

Title races are heating up all over Southeast Asia, while Johor Darul Ta'zim remain on track for an extraordinary treble in this week's FFT Five Finds...

Stags in red-hot form at just the right time

It's not just the six straight wins that have given Tampines Rovers the air of champions, it is the belief and confidence that is now flowing through the veins of these increasingly mighty looking Stags.

The winning streak means leaders Albirex Niigata have not run away with the league and Singapore still has a title race to get excited about.

On Thursday, Albirex Niigata – who have seen their lead cut from seven points to just one – bounced back from two defeats to win at home.

It may have come against the lowly Young Lions, but a win is a win and a four point-lead reappeared. That meant the pressure was back on Tampines to taste victory and they did not shirk that scenario, as forward Fazrul Nawaz explained.

"The dressing room is really buzzing right now ...” he said. “But we're taking one game at a time and making sure we respect our opponents.”

That was certainly the case after a hard-fought 3-2 win at the home of Warriors FC. 

Tampines coach Akbar Nawas relieved after Warriors win
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas was relieved by their fightback. Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

Tampines had to come back from 2-1 down thanks to second half goals from Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet. If the Rovers do take the trophy, then it is this kind of game that will be remembered. 

It showed the mettle of this team and demonstrated to Albirex Niigata that their title rivals are not going to give up.

JDT could still win the treble

It is slightly worrying that despite resting players and not taking the Malaysia Cup as seriously as the Malaysia Super League (MSL) or the AFC Cup, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) are still likely to progress to the quarter-finals.

A fine 4-1 win at home to PDRM means that a victory on the road to PKNS next weekend will take the Southern Tigers into the last eight. 

Gomez could have his hands full at season's end. Photo: JDT

On Saturday, skipper Safiq Rahim started on the bench and Argentine attacking duo Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero were rested, yet the Southern Tigers still won easily.

Four points clear at the top of the MSL and into the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup, it is still possible coach Mario Gomez could be lifting three trophies later this year. 

It would be the greatest achievement by any Malaysian club and show just how far in front the Southern Tigers are compared to everyone else.

Thailand's ding-dong title race continues

Who is going to be the team that cracks in the Premier League of Thailand? Muangthong United have been trading blows at the top of the league table with Bangkok United for weeks.

Bangkok may be a point behind, but they are now a massive 17 points clear of third-place. By next weekend, it could become physically impossible for either to fall out of the top two.

With the wins coming every week, it may just take one slip-up to lose the title. The pressure is now on and there are sure to be twists and turns before the season is over.

Muangthong celebrate scoring against Suphanburi

At the moment, both are going well and with impressive consistency. Muangthong were not at their best as they won 1-0 at Suphanburi, but the three points came regardless.

Bangkok had, on paper, an easier task at home to struggling Navy and took the points with a 3-1 victory. Now we are entering the final stage. Sooner or later, one of the two is likely to drop points. But who?

FIFA cancellation another blow for Malaysian football

Did they jump or were they pushed? Did they withdraw or was it taken away?

Whatever the ins and outs of the situation and whatever the reasons behind it, the news that FIFA will not be holding its May 2017 Congress in Kuala Lumpur is another negative news story for Malaysian football.

The world of football centering on KL for a few days with all that entails in terms of deals, profile and networking would have been a fine opportunity for people in Malaysia to build relationships and have a little fun.

There were a lot of people looking forward to it and it could have helped Malaysia's image in the international football arena too.

Now we will never know as it is not going to happen. Another opportunity is lost.

Top beats second in Vietnam title clash

The weekend went as well as it possibly could for leaders Hai Phong. Going into the clash with closest challengers Hanoi T&T, the pacesetters were two points clear. Not any more. Hai Phong won 2-1 to establish a five-point buffer with six games remaining.

To make the win even more delicious, it was a come-from-behind triumph. Hanoi bossed the first half and Hoang Vu Samson put the visitors ahead with a fine striker from outside the area 10 minutes before the break.

Hai Phong fans have had plenty to cheer this season. Photo: Hai Phong FC

Nguyen Dinh Bao then equalised on the hour mark. With both sides starting to settle for a draw with nine minutes left, Le Xuan Hung bundled home the winner from close range.

Even better was that none of the four teams chasing the leaders won. Third-placed Da Nang lost, with FLC Thanh Hoa in fourth also tasting defeat to drop to fifth. 

Hai Phong now have one hand firmly on the Vietnamese league trophy.

Main photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT