The FFT S.League Takeaway: Relentless DPMM stay seven clear while the Stags lose further ground

FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan rounds up all the action as we look back on an intriguing 12th week of the 2014 S.League season.. 

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DPMM express shows no sign of stopping  

Close but no cigar.

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) might have had a glimmer of a chance of toppling high-flying Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan, if only they had held on to their lead longer.

After shutting out the hosts through some desperate defending in the first half, the Japanese visitors duly opened the scoring eight minutes after the break through a sweet Itsuki Yamada strike. However, any dreams of an upset were duly banished when Roy O’Donovan (who else?) lashed home a superb long-range drive just three minutes later.

The comeback was completed on 72 minutes when Rodrigo Tosi tucked home his penalty after O’Donovan was brought down inside the box.

This marks their seventh successive victory and the first time Steve Kean’s men had come-from-behind to win this season. Massive credit goes to the gaffer who switched back to their favoured 4-4-2 formation in the second half after experimenting with 4-3-3 in the first half.

Seven points clear of the chasing pack, they will now go into this following week’s top-of-the-table clash with Warriors FC with nothing but confidence.

Match Details: Brunei 2 Albirex 1

Kim shows true potential in Young Lions win

There is no denying it, Balestier Khalsa’s Kim Minho is an extremely talented player.

One criticism though is that he does not strut his stuff enough on a regular basis. Just two weeks ago against Harimau Muda, coach Marko Kraljevic sensed his frustrations on the pitch and spoke to him separately after the game.

Things did not exactly improve the following week against Hougang United, but the Korean finally showed this time round that he can be the game-changer.

He started off on a flyer after his brilliant 5th minute half-volley beat Syazwan Buhari at his near post. A nice knock-on for Goran Ljubojevic allowed the latter to double the lead on 18 minutes, before yet another superb half-volley from range sealed the game for the Tigers 15 minutes before the end.

This was easily Kim’s best performance of the season as the Tigers picked up their second win in three games. After a six-match winless streak midway through the season, it must have been satisfying for Kraljevic to witness the Korean’s breakthrough performance and Park Kang-Jin’s smooth recovery from injury.

His side are now just three points off the top half of the table.

Match Details: Balestier 3 Young Lions 1

Cheetahs show grit again, but need to stop conceding

It seems like Hougang United are determined to earn points the hard way.

After fighting tooth and nail against a physical Balestier side en route to the three points last week, they were forced to work hard for a single point against Woodlands Wellington this time round.

Their defensive deficiencies were there for all to see again – the two centre-backs failed to clear the danger after Moon Soon-Ho ‘s shot was parried by Fadhil Salim. That led to Chang Jo-Yoon having the all the time and space to tap home on 28 minutes.

But you have to give it to the Cheetahs, who never gave up until the final whistle. Erwan Gunawan’s introduction in the second half injected some impetus and they eventually reaped the rewards deep into injury time. Shunsuke Nakatake was brought down just inside the box and hotshot Diego Gama slammed home the resulting spotkick to earn his side a valuable point.

This is the fourth time Amin Nasir’s side has scored a late goal to salvage point(s) this season. However as impressive as it may sound, a first clean sheet in 2014 continued to elude them and the team remains a work in progress.

Match Details: Woodlands 1 Hougang 1

Young Tigers on the rise

Two weeks is indeed a long time in football.

Just a fortnight ago, people were questioning whether this current Harimau Muda B squad deserved their spot in the league. Two straight wins later and they are now on the verge of climbing off the bottom of the table.

If there was anyone who felt that first victory against Woodlands was fortunate, there was nothing lucky about their stunning upset over Tanjong Pagar United in last Friday’s televised fixture.

An early injury blow to defender Abdullah Suleiman did not dampen their spirits and they were quick to close down the threat of attackers like Kamel Ramdani, Sebastien Etiemble and Monsef Zerka.

Although Syawal Nordin’ unfortunate own goal on the stroke of half time wiped out Ramzi Sufian’s superb volley, they kept plugging away in the second half and duly got their break four minutes before the end.

Ramzi was brought down by Ahmad Latiff inside the box and up stepped Shahrul Igwan to send Aurelien Herisson the wrong way, sending the Young Tigers to their second successive victory.

Now, who will bet against them making it three in a row this coming week against Albirex?

Match Details: Tanjong Pagar 1 Harimau Muda 2

Weaver’s Warriors roll on in title chase

Not pretty and certainly not merry, but the Warriors will not care a jot.

If they were harbouring title-winning ambitions, these could very well be the three points which prove crucial come the business end of the season.

For once, a team managed to keep the likes of Miroslav Pejic and Nicholas Velez quiet for large periods of the game.

Warriors FC could have easily lost the game if not for an impeccable Hassan Sunny in the Warriors goal. Geylang International huffed and puffed, but just could not find a way past the custodian.

Eventually the game was settled by a moment of brilliance by Velez six minutes before half time. Via a Shi Jiayi long ball, the Argentinian skinned his compatriot Joaquin Lopez before slamming an excellent finish past Joey Sim.

That was all Alex Weaver’s charges needed as they kept the gap between them and DPMM to a manageable seven points. Of course they can whittle it down further when they take on the latter this coming week.

Match Details: Geylang 0 Warriors 1

Yet another Stags fightback, but is it enough?

For the third game in a row, defending champions Tampines Rovers clawed back from a deficit to salvage a draw.

Home United may have thought the three points was theirs after Kwon Dakyung and Qiu Li scored goals within eight minutes of each other to cancel out Abdil Qaiyyim’s headed opener on 53 minutes. However, just like against Albirex and Warriors, the Stags seemed to have one last magic trick up their sleeves.

Deep into injury time, Bruno Castanheira was adjudged to have handled the ball inside his own area and ‘Mr Dependable’ Mustafic Fahrudin stepped up to convert the resulting spotkick. That meant a third successive draw under interim coach Rafi Ali.

Of course the Stags should be lauded for their constant comeback heroics, but such meagre pickings mean little when it comes to the title race. They are now nine points behind leaders DPMM and will need to get back to their winning habits, if they still want to reclaim their crown.

Match Details: Home Utd 2 Tampines 2

Photo Credit: Sapyri/Football Association of Singapore