The FFT S.League Takeaway: Eagles continue to soar while White Swans maintain recent improvement
Pejic scores again as Warriors prove their mettle
In our 6 Spicy Questions for the S.League last week, we questioned whether the Tanjong Pagar United backline could cope with Warriors FC hitman Miroslav Pejic.
Well they did to a certain extent, at least for large periods of the game. Apart from raking the woodwork with an early freekick, there was little joy in front of goal for the 28-year-old. However, all it took was one moment of magic for the Warriors striker to make his mark on the game.
Receiving the ball on the right, Pejic showed his ability to get out of a tight area before curling home a nice effort through the tiniest of gaps. That has enabled his team to maintain their impressive form in 2014.
Slowly but surely, Alex Weaver’s side is beginning to convince. After three wins against sides which finished in the bottom six of last season, his Warriors have since collected seven points out of nine against those who finished in the top half. They will take on another such side in Albirex Niigata (Singapore) next, but there should be no fear after their recent solid displays.
White Swans on the rise
It was not the best of starts for a side which had championship-winning aspirations. One win and two losses were not exactly the way Albirex wanted to kick off the season.
Credit to the Japanese boys though, they have since recovered from the sluggish start with three wins and one draw in their last four matches. Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s boys may not play the swashbuckling football associated with the class of yesteryears, but they often get the job done.
Kosuke Matsuda and Koki Akasaka rarely give the ball away cheaply in midfield, Keisuke Ota and Kento Nagasaki are effective down the flanks, while there is always Kazuki Sakamoto to apply the killer touch.
If they keep doing the same, there will be no reason why they can’t move further up the table.
If Salim’s Stags can do it, so can Steinebrunner’s Eagles
Two weeks ago, we saw defending champions Tampines Rovers performing an improbable escape with three goals in the dying minutes to stun Harimau Muda. If fans of the S.League thought this was just going to be a rare occurrence, they were badly (or rather gladly) proven wrong after Round 7.
This time round, it was Geylang International who pulled off an amazing comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. For much of the first 80 minutes, the Eagles were unable to get their game going. Fabian Kwok and Franco Chivilo struggled to control the midfield, while striker Leonel Felice had trouble even getting his shots on target.
But the game of football works in funny ways. Two sudden defensive lapses from Hougang paved the way for Geylang to come back into the game, before Felice applied the coup de grace deep into injury time. Football, eh?
Luck did play a part in this victory, but there is no denying the tremendous fighting spirit Geylang has shown since new gaffer Jorg Steinebrunner took over. After a terrible start, they now find themselves just one point adrift of the top half.
SEE ALSO Photo Gallery: Geylang 3 Hougang 2
Ruthless DPMM does it again
DPMM’s title charge is well and truly back on track.
Two less-than-desired results after opening the season with three wins may have worried fans of the Bruneians, but they have since put away those doubts with two delightful big-margin wins. People might argue that they came against the two national development sides in the league, but there is no taking away the professional manner in which the Bruneians have gone about doing their job.
It would have been easy to rest on their laurels after taking a three-goal lead against the Young Tigers in the first half, but Steve Kean’s men continued to work on their desired style of play after the break. Much has been made about the foreigners’ contribution to the team, but it is evident that the local players like Rosmin Kamis and Azwan Ali are beginning to flourish as well. Hotshots Rodrigo Tosi and Roy O’Donovan eventually found the net each in the second half as they cruised to a 5-0 victory.
It will be interesting to see if they can keep that upsurge in form when they take on surprise packages Hougang United next.
Protectors getting into the groove
It has not been the easiest of seasons for Home United coach Lee Lim-Saeng. A glut of injuries has not helped his cause in galvanising the side to achieve both local and regional glory, as their early-season form took a hit.
With the treatment room is clearing up recently, the Protectors are now gradually finding their feet. The likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Bruno Castanheira and Qiu Li are working well in tandem upfront but that would not have been possible if not for the efforts of the supporting cast. Izzdin Shafiq is looking like a nice acquisition in midfield, while Juma’at Jantan and company have been shoring up the defence. It would have also delighted coach Lee to see the unsung likes of Izzdin and Ismail Yunos contributing to the goals.
Unbeaten in their last six games with four straight wins in all competitions, the Protectors are now just five points behind leaders Tampines and will take on a wounded Tanjong Pagar United next.
Stags’ defensive fears allayed, for now
Expectations are always sky-high for a massive club like Tampines Rovers, thus defeats (let alone two straight ones) are magnified in the various media reports regarding them.
Tampines coach Salim Moin would have been worried after seeing his side conceding eight goals in the last two games, but it must have been rather heartening to see them putting up a much better defensive display this time round.
Goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at made a number of key saves to thwart the Balestier Khalsa forwards, while centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim put up one of his best performances since joining the club. Up front, Noh Alam Shah’s enthusiasm proved that he still has the goods at the age of 33 and is capable of filling into Miljan Mrdakovic’s shoes while Luis Closa showed his continued excellence with two neat shots from range.
It was a happy day for Tampines players and fans alike as they maintained their position at the top of the table.