FFT's Five Finds: Tampines still in contention


In Southeast Asia,  a loss in the AFC Cup threatens to derail Tampines’ hopes of doing the treble but they are not completely out of it… 

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Tampines Rovers can still do it all

It has not been the best of times recently for Tampines. Two straight defeats in the S.League have the Stags four points behind leaders Albirex Niigata.

Then there was a lacklustre performance in the first leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final and a 1-0 loss at the Indian home of Bengaluru.

Yet all is not over. Four points can be overcome at this stage of the season especially with a big game to come between the two title rivals in late October.

The Stags also have what it takes to bounce back from that loss in India in front of their own fans.

And there is still the Singapore Cup final to think about, also against Albirex.

The last few weeks have been something of a blip for Tampines but there is no reason yet to panic.

There is still time and opportunities to make this a season to remember. The Stags are not likely to get all three trophies but taking one or two is still very much in their hands.

The title race is over in Thailand


Thailand's title race has been decided

The margins at the top of the league in Thailand have been so tight this season.

The twin Uniteds of Bangkok and Muangthong have given new meanings t0 the word consistency.

Consequently, the dropping of points is a major no-no, with the standards that high at the top of the Thai table.

But for Bangkok, Saturday's game at Chonburi was always going to be problematic.

The Sharks have a new coach and plenty of talent but have lacked the consistency that is so obviously necessary this season. On their day though, Chonburi can make things difficult for anyone.

Muangthong got the chance they needed and anyone who has paid even the slightest of attention to this season could have guessed what was going to happen.

The Kirins scored early against the struggling BBCU FC and never looked back.

A 5-1 win ended the title race. Bangkok United are five points behind with four games remaining and a much inferior goal difference. 

Muangthong have played 30 games this season and failed to win just five. It is almost inconceivable that they will slip up at least twice in the last four games – assuming that their rivals win all of theirs.

This will be the weekend when Muangthong won the Premier League of Thailand.

The Malaysia Super League schedule needs some work


The schedule in Malaysia is less-than-ideal. photo: PDRM

There are only 22 games in the league season and it sometimes seems like the powers-that-be want to stretch it out as much as possible. Play has stopped and started more times than a traffic jam in Kuala Lumpur. 

The two-month break from May to July took much of the momentum of the campaign.

But other leagues do that too and momentum can be recaptured. Yet the way the final few games have been organised is a little disappointing.

The title race may be over but the relegation battle is in full swing. But there are two weeks between game 20 and the penultimate match of the season. What palpable excitement that there may be will have dissipated by then.

And then when the penultimate game does take place, fans will have to wait for a full four weeks for the final match. There is nothing wrong will building up to the final cliffhanger but 28 days is far too long.

Malaysia Cup offers Selangor salvation but it's not enough

Mission 33 was accomplished last season, a fine way to end a decent campaign.

The final of the 2016 season is just a semi-final away. The quarter-final second leg was a hard-fought 1-0 win against PKNS at the Shah Alam Stadium. It wasn't quite as exciting as the 4-3 first leg but it was a case of job done.

This year has been a disappointment with no title challenge. Yet there could be another trophy at the end.

If it happens then once again, there will be tens of thousands of fans celebrating another Malaysia Cup triumph. Yet this trophy, while welcomed and important, should not distract from the fact that the Red Giants have not challenged for the league title.

Selangor are in danger of becoming known for being a Cup team. That is not good enough.

Cristian Gonzales still leading the way for Arema.


Gonzales is still knocking in the goals despite his age

The Indonesian Soccer Championship is an open competition this season.

Madura United still sit on top but just a point behind are Arema. The team in second has somehow managed to accrue a goal difference of plus 15 despite only scoring 24 goals in 20 games. The reason is clear: a strong defence.

There are few teams in South-east Asia with that kind of solidity and there are no teams with a player like Cristian Gonzales.

The Uruguayan-born striker may be 40 but can still chip in with the goals when it matters.

Main Photo: Tampines