The FFT S.League Takeaway: Warriors overcome the odds to win long-awaited title
A win that came at some cost for DPMM
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) 0-1 Brunei DPMM
It had been a timely win by DPMM after a six-game winless streak, as they edged past Albirex 1-0 to return to the top of the table.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, it was Roy O’Donovan who provided the spark 15 minutes into the second half when he swivelled his way in the box and delivered a superb cross for Adi Said to head home.
However, the victory came at huge cost as O’Donovan got himself dismissed four minutes into injury time for dissent.
Playmaker Azwan Ali and centre-back Abdul Aziz Tamit also receiving their fourth yellow card of the season, meaning the Wasps would miss three key players for the title-deciding clash versus Tampines Rovers.
Their absences eventually proved to be the difference as DPMM struggled and lost against the Stags, sending the prize Warriors FC’s way.
Cheetahs thrill in finale
Hougang United 4-2 Tanjong Pagar United
Despite securing seventh spot before this game, there was no letting up from Hougang as they put up arguably one of their best showings this season as they thumped Tanjong Pagar 4-2.
Their passing was crisp, there was pace and they poured forward in numbers on the counter. Most importantly, the Cheetahs were deadly in front of goal.
Geison Moura opened the scoring inside 10 minutes after capitalizing on Hanafi Salleh’s uncertainty. Just before the break, Firman Hanif, playing in an unorthodox right-wing role, lashed home the second.
Although Kamel Ramdani’s penalty pulled one back for the Jaguars on 50 minutes, Amin Nasir’s men continued to control the game and eventually added another two goals via Igor Ferreira and Geison.
Asraf Rashid’s late goal kept the scoreline more respectable but was futile in denying the North-eastern club their 12th win of a productive season. Their points tally of 42 also means they finished with more than the bottom team of the top tier, Balestier Khalsa.
Rams end beleaguered season on positive note
Woodlands Wellington 3-2 Harimau Muda
It had been four months ago when they last won in the league. Therefore, Salim Moin’s Woodlands must be thoroughly relieved that they came out on top in a five-goal thriller with Harimau Muda B.
Allowing the young Tigers to take the lead barely four minutes in through Nurshamil Ghani may not have been the best of starts, but the hosts showed some much-needed belief and urgency thereafter to turn the game around.
Moon Soon-ho first finished clinically past Ramdhan Hamid for his first goal in seven games, before Fadhil Noh tapped home on the hour mark after Hamid’s rash decision to rush off his line.
Defender Milos Jevtic then nodded home Goh Swee Swee’s freekick on 67 minutes to cap off the comeback, although Akhir Bahari would pull one back late on.
It was important to end off the season on the high note, as they escaped the ignominy of finishing bottom. However, question marks still remain over the club’s S.League credentials for next season.
Timely boost for Catanheira before cup final
Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Home United
When Home United’s title challenge began to falter in the closing stages of the season, it was Bruno Castanheira who ended up getting the most flak for their downfall.
The striker’s goals somehow dried up after a good start in which he scored almost every two games, and it soon appeared he could not have hit a cow’s arse with a banjo if he tried.
But the Brazilian-Japanese was to have the last laugh.
Receiving the ball from Fazrul Nawaz, he took two touches to steady himself and shake off his marker before letting fly from 20 yards out, beating stranded Balestier goalie Zaiful Nizam.
That goal came just two minutes before the end of regulation time and proved to be the eventual match-winner.
What better way to prove his, and Home’s, critics wrong ahead of the big Singapore Cup final?
Lee Lim-Saeng will certainly hope that this is the sign of things to come as the two sides prepare to lock horns again in a week’s time.
Profligacy and lapses see DPMM let title slip
Tampines Rovers 2-1 Brunei DPMM
It was meant to signal the changing of the guard, with Tampines taking on DPMM on the final day.
All DPMM has to do was beat the dethroned champions to claim their first-ever S.League title, but things did not go according to script.
Steve Kean’s troops were extremely wasteful in the first half, and should have gone at least two goals up.
Hotshot Rodrigo Tosi headed two clear chances over the bar from Hendra Azam’s excellent set-piece deliveries, while Shahrazen Said somehow fluffed his lines from three yards out after being set up by Awangku Fakharrazi.
Aleksandar Duric’s introduction after the break made the difference for the Stags as they piled pressure on the less-than-comfortable DPMM defence.
First it was Jozef Kaplan who fired past Azman Iham at his near post, before the custodian spilled Duric’s shot into the path of Miljan Mrdakovic to tap in.
That left them with a mountain to climb with just 17 minutes to go. Tosi eventually got fired home his 24th of the season with nine minutes, but DPMM men could not muster a fairytale comeback.
With Warriors picking up a win in their concurrent game against Albirex, the Wasps had to settle for second spot – certainly a bitter conclusion after leading the table for the majority of the season.
Warriors show resilience to claim long-awaited title
Warriors FC 1-0 Albirex Niigata (Singapore)
Do your own job and let fate decide the rest - that was the prevailing thought in the Warriors players’ minds going into their final game against Albirex.
The uniformed outfit had to depend on DPMM faltering against Tampines, but stuck to their primary task of taking down the White Swans.
It may not have been as straightforward as they thought, especially with Nicolas Velez having several wild attempts on goal that failed to trouble Albirex keeper Kenjiro Ogino in the first half.
However, Alex Weaver’s men continued to plug away after the break and reaped the rewards right after. Velez, sporting a bandaged head, flicked on a Daniel Bennett cross for Hafiz Rahim to nod past Ogino right in front of goal.
Thereafter, they kept their concentration at the back to frustrate the White Swans’ strikeforce. Hassan Sunny in particular was impregnable, as he denied Kazuya Okazaki on two occasions and kept out Itsuki Yamada’s fierce drive from 30 yards out.
The gritty manner of their victory paid off though, as the Warriors sealed their first title since 2009. It truly represented a feat, considering they had finished in seventh for the past two seasons.
Photo credit: Nigel Chin/FourFourTwo