Tampines Rovers vs Ceres La Salle: Stags’ Treble dreams on the line
Tampines Rovers Form
- Tampines 1-2 Hougang United (S.League)
- Warriors FC 2-3 Tampines (S.League)
- Tampines 2-1 Geylang International (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Tampines (League Cup SF)
- Brunei DPMM 2-1 Tampines (League Cup)
- Warriors FC 0-3 Tampines (League Cup)
Ceres La Salle Form
- Ceres 2-2 Stallion (UFL)
- Green Archers 2-1 Ceres (UFL)
- Ceres 3-3 Global (UFL)
- Ceres 7-1 Green Archers (UFL)
- Ceres 5-0 Kaya (UFL)
A test of Tampines Rovers’ credentials in their treble bid.
Right from the start of the season, Tampines have never shied away from the fact they are chasing every piece of silverware on offer.
It must have been disappointing to let the League Cup out of their grasp, but the Stags’ class of 2016 is still in contention for the other three trophies – the S.League, the Singapore Cup and the AFC Cup.
A 2-1 home defeat to Hougang United has put a huge dent in their hopes of lifting the league title, but they need to recover fast from that disappointment with a crucial two-legged Singapore Cup semi-final tie with Philippines outfit Ceres La Salle coming up.
Akbar Nawas’ side looked distinctly off-colour against the Cheetahs and got hit on the counter twice, as their 11-match unbeaten home run ended by the less-fancied visitors.
A similarly listless display may see a quality Ceres outfit put them to the sword. The United Football League (UFL) champions have been a refreshing addition to this year’s tournament, with their penchant for attacking and entertaining football.
With established Philippines internationals like Manuel Ott, Patrick Reichelt, Carli de Murga and Stephan Shrock as well as skilful Spanish winger Bienvenido Marejon in their ranks, the debutants are widely viewed as the favourites to win the Cup.
Ali Go’s charges, however, are coming into this game not in the best of shape after a three-match winless run in the UFL.
The Busmen did well to come from two goals down to draw 3-3 against Global FC, but suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to mid-table outfit Green Archers next. On Wednesday, they led 2-0 against Stallion but conceded two in the final 20 minutes to let slip two valuable points.
They are now five points behind leaders Global, with the latter having a game in hand.
Tampines will have to re-jig their starting 11, with forward Fazrul Nawaz serving out a one-match suspension (he would miss out anyway due to an ankle injury against Hougang) while midfielder Yasir Hanapi is suspended for both legs.
The versatile Fabian Kwok is out for a few weeks due to a partial medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear, while Shahdan Sulaiman remains a long-term absentee.
The good news is that key man Jermaine Pennant has recovered from his Achilles injury, although Akbar has hinted that he will likely be left on the bench.
On the other hand, Ceres will have to contend without left back Kevin Ingreso due to a one-match suspension.
Key Battle: Mustafic Fahrudin vs Stephan Schrock
Left foot, right foot, header, inside the box, outside the box – you name them, he has scored them. Schrock may stand at just 1.7m, but is an all-round forward who strikes fear into any defence.
The 29-year-old, who recently extended his loan spell from SpVgg Greuther Furth till January 2017, is the tournament’s current top scorer with five goals in just three outings.
The Tampines defence, led by 35-year-old captain Mustafic Fahrudin, will be a tougher one to crack though.
“Farra”, as he is popularly known, has enjoyed a sterling campaign this term and is touted for a possible recall into the Singapore national team set-up.
Both sides are helmed by two young coaches, who are refreshingly honest and pull no punches in their post-match comments.
Tampines tactician Akbar, 41, readily spoke about his team’s shortcomings and challenged his players to up their ante after the loss against Hougang.
Meanwhile, 39-year-old Ceres counterpart Ali Go felt that his players took it a little too easy and disrespected their opponents Brunei DPMM at times during the two-legged quarter-final.
- Ceres 2-1 Tampines (AFC Cup, Apr ’16)
- Tampines 1-1 Ceres (AFC Cup, Mar ’16)
Facts and Figures
- These sides played each other twice in the group stages of the AFC Cup earlier this year. Ceres scored a late equaliser to grab a 1-1 draw in Singapore, before winning the home leg 2-1.
- Tampines are three-time winners of the Singapore Cup, but have yet to win the competition since 2006.
- Tampines last reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2014, where they were beaten 4-1 on penalties by eventual winners Balestier after the scores were level at 2-2 in open play.
- Four (left foot – 1, right foot -2, header -1) out of five’s Schrock’s goals have come from inside the area.
Ceres are the slight favourites, but Tampines should be motivated to bounce back from the shock loss to Hougang. The Stags to take a slight 2-1 lead into the second leg.