The FFT S.League Takeaway: Warriors close gap on DPMM while Tampines earn first win under Rafi

FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan rounds up all the action as we look back on an eventful 13th week of the 2014 S.League season...

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One step forward, two steps back for the Tigers

Balestier Khalsa just cannot find any form of consistency.

A first win in seven games, after a 2-0 victory over Harimau Muda, was supposed to herald better things to come, but they proceeded to lose to Hougang United.

Last week’s 3-1 victory over Courts Young Lions looked impressive, but they could not follow it up against Woodlands Wellington.

They paid the price for a sluggish start to the first half as Fadhil Noh nodded the Rams into the lead on 37 minutes, following Milos Jevtic's clever flick from Rosman Sulaiman’s corner.

Marko Kraljevic duly brought on playmaker Park Kang-Jin after the break but to no avail. On the contrary, Darren Stewart’s men showed more enterprising stuff and duly doubled the lead after the hour mark through Chang Jo-Yoon’s exquisite dink over Zaiful Nizam.

Although hotshot Goran Ljubojevic duly got one back minutes later through a towering header, it was too little too late for the Tigers.

Overall, it was a performance which Kraljevic admitted was not good enough. They will definitely need to come up with better performances to if they don't want to end the season in mid table obscurity.

Match Details: Balestier 1 Woodlands 2

Late Cheetahs flurry denies Jaguars much-needed three points

Tanjong Pagar United just can’t buy a win at the moment.

For 70-odd minutes, they seemed the better side and looked set to clinch their first three points in eight games.

Kamel Ramdani’s curling freekick gave them the edge against Hougang United and they had a number of chances to increase the lead before half time. However, things fell apart in the final 15 minutes.

Hougang coach Amin Nasir threw on unorthodox winger Lau Meng Meng to give his side more energy in the attacking third and that move duly paid off six minutes before the end.

Diego Gama slipped a brilliant ball behind two defenders for the 30-year-old to score his first-ever S.League goal in his decade-long career.

Lau could have even won it for the Cheetahs towards the end if he had not spurned a close-range header in the dying minutes.

While the North-eastern based club stays on sixth with this point, the Jaguars continue to languish in tenth spot. 

Patrick Vallee will hope his charges go one better when they take on Balestier Khalsa two weeks from now.

Match Details: Hougang 1 Tanjong Pagar 1

Home voodoo strikes again as Eagles’ winless streak continues

Geylang International just can’t get the better of Home United, no matter what they do.

In their last 15 meetings, the Eagles have sustained 14 defeats while escaping once with a draw. They thought they may had bucked the trend when Kento Fukuda put them ahead after just 16 minutes on Thursday night, but the final outcome was all too familiar.

Ridhuan Muhammad, Aliff Shafaein and Leonel Felice all spurned chances to extend the slender lead – those misses proved costly for Jorg Steinebrunner’s men.

Three goals in 12 minutes saw the Protectors quickly turning the tide – defender Kwon Dakyung nodded Lee Kwan-Woo’s corner home, Indra Sahdan set up Fazrul for a great turn-and-finish before Kwon added his second with yet another header from Sirina Camara’s freekick.

That truly broke the resistance from the Eagles as they hardly threatened in the second half. Fazrul then rubbed salt into the wound by tapping home on the stroke of half time after Izzdin Shafiq’s shot was parried.

While Home closed the gap between them and the top to seven points, Geylang’s winless streak is now extended to six games.

Steinebrunner has it all to do as they take on defending champions Tampines Rovers in an Eastern Derby two weeks later.

Match Details: Geylang 1 Home Utd 4

Beware DPMM, we are coming for you  

It might be a hard task to clinch the title this year, but we’ll give it our best shot.

That seems to be the message Warriors FC wants to send out after their momentous 1-0 win over league leaders Brunei DPMM.

It is not an easy feat toppling a side which has dropped points just twice this season. Remember too that Steve Kean’s men were on a seven-match winning streak and had also scored 24 goals in the process.

In our S.League preview last week, we mentioned that this game would prove if the uniformed side truly possessed title-winning credentials.

Well, they certainly didn't let us down. Hafiz Rahim’s freekick midway through the first half crept inside Wardun Yussof’s near post and that was all that was needed for the three points.

Marin Vidosevic and Daniel Bennett were imperious at the back, Shi Jiayi filled in well for the injured Tom Beattie in central midfield, while surprise starter Suria Prakash gave DPMM right back Subhi Abdilah some torrid times.

All in all, Alex Weaver’s men proved to be good value for the three points as they denied the Bruneians from scoring for the first time this season.

With three of their next four league games coming against teams in the bottom half, who will bet against his Warriors continuing this impressive surge for the title?

Match Details: Warriors 1 DPMM 0

Better things to come for Rafi and his Stags

This has definitely been a good week for the newly-permanent Tampines Rovers coach Rafi Ali.

After having the ‘interim’ tag taken off him, the former Singapore international was able to taste victory for the first time in his reign.  

A first half tap-in from the evergreen Aleksandar Duric and a precise finish from Miljan Mrdakovic in the second proved to be enough to sink a resilient Courts Young Lions outfit, despite Sahil Suhaimi’s leveller just after the break.

Aide Iskandar’s boys did look threatening late on, but the defensive duo of Mustafic Fahrudin and Abdil Qaiyyim stood strong to repel any danger.

The manner of this victory wasn’t pretty, but it will matter little to Rafi and his charges right now. This was their first win in seven games in all competitions and they are now just six points behind leaders DPMM.

Harimau Muda and Geylang are up next, before they face off against the Bruneians in mid-June.

Match Details: Young Lions 1 Tampines 2

Sakamoto brilliance keeps White Swans in shout for title

Despite their inconsistent form recently, Albirex Niigata (Singapore) still have an outside shot at the title.

That is of course provided the impeccable Kazuki Sakamoto keeps on scoring.

The 24-year-old found the best possible time to score the perfect hat-trick as he led his side to a 4-1 thrashing of Harimau Muda away in Pasir Gudang.

The Young Tigers thought they were on their way to their third successive win after Ramzi Sufian squeezed a shot inside Kazuki Kishigami’s near post.

However Sakamoto soon stole the show. His header minutes later from Kento Nagasaki’s corner levelled matters, before Taiyo Nishida turned home Kazuya Okazaki’s corner just after the break.

Razip Ismail’s charge were truly deflated by then as the hotshot landed another two knockout blows.

A superb right-footed lob over Harimau Muda keeper Ramdhan Hamid was soon followed by a smart left-footed finish inside the custodian’s right-hand post.

That completed the victory as they closed the gap between themselves and DPMM to a more manageable eight points.

Match Details: Harimau Muda 1 Albirex 4

Photo Credit: Abel Khoo/Football Association of Singapore