S.League's 2017 Good and Bad: Surprises, surprises, surprises
Balestier Khalsa are up and running
Balestier Khalsa have been dominating my weekly column since it started several weeks ago, albeit in the bad section, therefore it is only right that with their turn of form comes a place in the Good.
A lack of firepower meant that the Tigers had only netted one goal from open play in four matches prior to their Friday evening encounter with pundits’ pre-season title contenders picks, Brunei DPMM.
But against DPMM, the unfancied Tigers picked up their second consecutive victory in what was regarded as a “coupon buster” victory.
The victory was especially deserved for coach Marko Kraljevic, who has seen his side toil hard for the points this season and was an extremely animated man on the touchline during the win.
Home United and Albirex Niigata (S) await the Tigers in their next few matches and the odds will once against be stacked against them.
But after their latest win, it would be silly to bet against Balestier. Just ask the miserable men who were spotted tearing apart their betting tickets at full-time.
Raihan Rahman’s belter
Staying on the topic of Balestier, midfielder Raihan Rahman rockets his way into the list this week after expertly netting a sublime free-kick in the 2-1 victory over DPMM. The goal, which proved to be the winner, was struck from 30 yards out and is already an early contender for goal of the season.
Raihan, who now has two goals for the season after netting during the opening day 2-1 defeat to Warriors FC, has been one of the standouts of the season for the Tigers.
Could a call-up to the national team be on the cards soon? After all, he has already been called up by V.Sundramoorthy to train with the squad this season.
All in all, it is good to see Raihan hitting the headlines for the right reasons this time after the debacle with Jordan Webb earlier in the season.
Ryutaro Megumi has been found
He made a blistering start to his Tampines Rovers career in the S.League when he netted within 40 minutes of his debut in the first game of the season in the 2-1 loss to Albirex.
But since then, Ryutaro Megumi had gone missing with his below-par performances for the Stags.
Whatever coach Juergen Raab said to him before the Eastern derby clash with Geylang International worked wonders then, as Megumi turned in a superb man-of-the-match performance in the 4-0 victory, scoring twice and claiming as many assists.
Megumi will hope to use his latest performance as a platform to build on. Japanese players playing for local clubs have been on song this season with Hougang’s Fumiya Kogure and Warriors’ Kento Fukuda having impressive campaigns so far.
Now that Megumi has been found, the search party will now shift their attentions to locating other foreigners. Sources say that Hougang’s Pablo Rodriguez and Geylang’s Ricardo Sendra head the list.
Warriors FC show the stuff of potential champions
The comeback of the week came from Choa Chu Kang Stadium as the Warriors just about managed to hang on to their status of being one of three teams unbeaten in the league (along with Home United and defending champions Albirex), after a dramatic 4-3 win over bottom of the table Garena Young Lions.
Joel Tshibamba broke his duck with a brace, with his second goal coming in the last minute of the game to give the Warriors all three points.
The Young Lions have to be given some form of credit for their effort, especially forward Taufik Suparno, who had a brace of his own.
The Warriors continue to impress early in the season and will next travel to Brunei to face DPMM, and given their buoyant mood after such a dramatic victory, a win will be expected.
The interesting aspect of the Warriors’ win was that it was Baihakki Khaizan who claimed the assist for the victory, after he nodded the ball to Tshibamba.
A vocal presence throughout the 90 minutes and over the course of the season, fellow players will attest to the fact that Baihakki has been a much-needed leader in the ranks. Ridhuan Muhamad was another player who impressed.
Coach Sundram, are you watching?
Irfan Fandi the show stopper
Another week, and another Home United player in the Good.
If Sundram was indeed watching, then Baihakki’s continued absence from the national set-up may be down to the emergence of Irfan. On Sunday evening, Irfan turned in his best performance yet, at the heart of Home’s defence in their 2-0 win over Hougang.
Irfan proved his worth at both ends of the pitch, popping up to head his side into the lead from a corner in the 60th minute, but more importantly for Home, he was an impregnable force at the back.
Post-match, Home coach Aidil Sharin sang praises of his young star and said that on the evidence of Irfan’s latest display, his decision to field Irfan at centre-back instead of in attack was vindicated. Aidil even went on to claim that Irfan had proven with his performance that he could be the “next Baihakki or Aide Iskandar”
Has the debate finally ended then? Get used to Irfan Fandi the defender then.