Team of the Week - S.League Rd 4
Hougang United’s unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Warriors FC, while defending champions Tampines Rovers kept their 100% record in Round 4 action. So who were the standout performers over the past week? Our team of FourFourTwo Singapore writers finally cobbled together a quality selection after much squabbling...
In a week where five clean sheets were kept in the six games played, it was hard for us to decide who took this slot. It was a good week for Warriors FC’s Neezam Aziz, Albirex Niigata’s Kenjiro Ogino, Home United’s Shahril Jantan, Geylang International’s Joey Sim and Woodlands Wellington’s Yazid Yasin as they successfully shut out their opponents.
The fight for the gloves came down to the latter duo who were largely stretched in their respective matches. Sim put up a brave performance to deny a number of close-range opportunities from the Young Lions, but Yazid’s display between the sticks earned him the nod this week.
The veteran goalkeeper pulled off a series of stunning saves before and after Taufiq Ghani’s 64th-minute goal, helping the Rams stave off the massive pressure from the Jaguars and earn their first three points of the season.
Yazid’s inclusion in this Team of the Week may not have been possible if not for his captain Rosman Sulaiman’s influence at the back. Taking on the captaincy in his second season with the Rams, this experienced campaigner ensured a new-look defence including new signings Walid Lounis and Milos Jevtic, as well as rookie full back Andy Ahmad, settled in as quickly as possible. He rarely put in a foot wrong as the Rams closed out their match in Queenstown on Friday night.
On the other flank, Albirex Niigata skipper Itsuki Yamada gets his second-ever TOTW nomination after playing a sterling role in their 1-0 win over Balestier. Often overlapping on the left, his runs caused many problems for rookie Tigers right-back Tajeli Salamat; it was his timely surge down that side and square back for Kazuki Sakamoto's finish that led to the only goal of the game. Defensively he was solid and shut out any attempts to get past him in his area.
Daniel Bennett takes up the first slot in the centre-back position due to his colossal performance in the Warriors' 2-0 win over Hougang United. The 36-year-old was literally unbeatable in the air and covered his defensive partner Marin Vidosevic well on a couple of occasions. After his goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was sent off, he had to be even more alert to stave off the pressure from Hougang’s Brazilian duo of Diego Gama and Geison Moura. Not too bad for a player who is supposed to be ‘over-the-hill’!
Geylang’s Kento Fukuda will complete the back four after impressing in the win against the Young Lions. Making his first appearance for the side since his off-season move from the White Swans, the 23-year-old brushed off any suggestions that he was unfit with a courageous performance against the electric Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri.
Meanwhile, Tanjong Pagar’s Hanafi Salleh deserves some mention here for his almost rock-solid display in the loss against the Rams, while Tampines Rovers’ Abdil Qaiyyim acquitted himself well in his second-ever start for the club as they fought back to beat DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Warriors FC’s Kevin McCann gets the first midfield slot due to his no-frills display in the middle of the park. In a team full of attacking talents, it is crucial that there is a player who does his job with little fuss while occasionally contributing in attack. Alongside Tom Beattie, the former Scottish Under-21 midfielder managed to blunt the midfield supply coming from Hougang’s Azhar Sairudin and Shunsuke Nakatake and render the Cheetahs attack impotent.
He will be paired up with Tampines’s Shahdan Sulaiman after the latter once again stood out with another sparkling display. Always trying to pick out striker Miljan Mrdakovic with the killer pass, Shahdan showed his ability to read the game as well as some grit to pair with it. It was no surprise the 25-year-old was the one who bombed forward to land the eventual winning goal with seconds left. A well-deserved second TOTW entry for the Singapore international.
On the right flank, Albirex’s Keisuke Ota gets his first ever nod after some promising opening displays. The 25-year-old built on that form and proved to be a constant menace down the right with his surging runs. Pumping in a number of lovely crosses, it was a pity that his forwards’ poor positioning meant they mostly came to naught.
For his continued wizardry, Home United’s Lee Kwan-Woo will fit in on the opposite flank. The marquee man’s eye for the killer pass was at the heart of two of the goals in his side’s 3-0 mauling of Harimau Muda. After a superb slide-rule pass to release Bruno Castanheira en route to Fazrul Nawaz’s opener, he left the best for last with a brilliant no-look outer-foot pass to Qiu Li for the final goal.
Meanwhile, Tanjong Pagar’s Sazali Salleh deserves a mention for bossing the midfield as much as he could despite his side’s defeat. Albirex winger Kento Nagasaki also did well to stretch a disjointed Balestier defence, while Koki Akasaka kept the ball moving in midfield for Albirex.
Miroslav Pejic will spearhead this selection after yet another sparkling display. Hitting a brace in his side’s 3-0 win over the Young Tigers the week before, he replicated that feat against Hougang this time round. The manner he took these two goals also showed the various qualities he brings to this Warriors side; predatory instincts saw him reacted fastest inside the box for the opening goal, while he showcased some superb touches and acceleration for his second.
Next to him will be a surprise inclusion in Home’s Fazrul Nawaz. Playing for the first time since that horrific injury sustained while playing for former club LionsXII in the Malaysia Cup, the 28-year-old showed that his goalscoring abilities had not deserted him over the last few months. Playing in a Petr Cech-inspired protective helmet, the Singapore international added finishing touches to a couple of flowing moves.
Worthy mentions go to his strike partners Bruno Castanheira and Qiu Li; the former unselfishly squared both balls to Fazrul for his brace, while Qiu Li marked his return from suspension with a well-taken goal. Miljan Mrdakovic is also worth a shoutout for his continued potency in front of goal, landing his 5th goal of the season while as setting up Shahdan for the winning goal.