S.League action returned with a vengeance this weekend, with all ten teams in play over three days.
Late goals and a pull-apart brawl meant plenty of drama at Jalan Besar Stadium as the Eagles and the Stags kicked things off, while Albirex took advantage of Tampines' stumble to drag themselves into second place behind unbeaten DPMM.
Warriors FC also roared back into title contention with a huge 4-1 win over equally fancied Home United. Just to jog your memories after the long international break – the last time we saw our defending champions was when they were getting trounced 0-6 by Albirex Niigata in March. Once again, the S.League never fails to throw up a few surprises when we least expect it...
Geylang International 3 Tampines Rovers 2
3 Apr | Friday | Jalan Besar Stadium
We predicted in preseason that this would be one of the ten games you didn't want to miss this season and boy, did it meet our expectations and more! Five goals, including a late winner, plus red cards being brandished all around in the dying stages provided plenty of fodder for the headline writers the next day.
The Stags were favourites heading into this contest, with Geylang winless after three games played. Indeed, a regulation win looked to be the likely outcome, as Tampines opened the scoring through Firdaus Idros. They did not account for Tatsuro Inui though, as the Japanese import proceeded to turn the game on its head. Yuki Ichikawa was on hand to nod home an Inui free kick to level the scores, before captain Jozef Kaplan put the Eagles in front with a well-taken penalty. Tampines weren't going to go down without a fight though, as Noh Alam Shah equalised in the 88th minute. The away fans hadn't even finished celebrating yet when Inui's cross found Bruno Castanheira, allowing the Geylang striker to prod the ball past Siddiq Durimi for the winner.
Nor Azli Yusoff was then given his marching orders for throwing a punch at Roberto Alviz, before irate Tampines players had to be held back from charging the Geylang bench. Referee Jansen Foo eventually calmed things down, before also sending Tampines assistant Aleksandar Duric and Geylang head coach Jorg Steinebrunner to the stands.
Harimau Muda 0 Albirex Niigata (S) 1
3 Apr | Friday | Hang Jebat Stadium
Albirex Niigata's promising form of late continued in Malacca, as they made it three straight wins with a 1-0 victory over Harimau Muda. Malaysia's representatives on the other hand, have now lost all three of their fixtures this season and are bottom of the S.League table.
Harimau Muda goalkeeper Ramdhan Hamid and his defence were in inspired form, as they managed to keep their Japanese visitors at bay despite conceding the lion's share of possession for most of the game. It wasn't until the 66th minute that Atsushi Kawata finally found the back of the net, after good work from teammates Fumiya Kogure and Rion Taki. Interestingly enough, this was the fourth 1-0 scoreline that the White Swans have been involved in this season (two wins and two losses), with the only aberration being their incredible 6-0 spanking of defending champions Warriors FC in Round 4.
Balestier Khalsa 5 Courts Young Lions 1
4 Apr | Saturday | Toa Payoh Stadium
Balestier Khalsa not only managed to double their point tally on Saturday, they also got a positive goal difference as part of the bargain as they blew past Courts Young Lions in a one-sided affair. Miroslav Krstic notched a brace, with Fadhil Noh, Emir Lotinac and Tarik Cmajcanin all chipped in as the Tigers registered a blowout 5-1 win.
Iqbal Hussain marked his return from U22 duty with a consolation goal in the 86th minute, but it was far too little and too late as the Young Lions slumped to yet another lost. The Singaporean development side have failed to pick up any points since their draw with Hougang United in Round 1, and remain second from bottom only because their counterparts from across the causeway have an even more abysmal record. Head coach Aide Iskandar will have a lot to worry about as they get closer to the SEA Games football tournament in June.
Hougang United 2 Brunei DPMM 3
4 Apr | Saturday | Hougang Stadium
Hougang United are the only other club that are still searching for their first win of the season, and Brunei DPMM extended that streak for at least a week more on Saturday. Despite opening the scoring via Kunihiro Yamashita in the very first minute, the Cheetahs were outplayed by a more determined DPMM.
Paulo Sergio had a dream debut in place of the injured Craig Fagan, scoring twice in quick succession to haul Steve Kean's men back into the contest, before defender Brian McLean netted his first goal of the campaign in the second half. Hougang's Chupe finally awoke from his slumber to curl home one of the prettiest goals you will see this season, but it merely flattered Hougang as time expired.
Home United 1 Warriors FC 4
5 Apr | Sunday | Yishun Stadium
How do you bounce back from an embarrassing one-sided defeat? In Warriors FC's case, you lick your wounds over a long international break, then come back destroy a title rival in your very next match.
Home United had been undefeated in the league before Sunday, although they had won only once in four games. The streak was snapped as the defending champions visited and put four goals past a hapless Shahril Jantan in goal. The returning Fazrul Nawaz was instrumental throughout, scoring two goals and also contributing an assist to celebrate his new S.League deal. Nicolas Velez and Kevin McCann also struck before halftime to build up an unassailable lead.
The Protectors were sorely missing the services of injured striker Ken Ilso, and only found the net midway through the second half thanks to Kamel Ramdani.