Team of the Week - S.League Rd 13
Round 13 was yet another exciting week as Warriors FC continued their recent renaissance with a superb 1-0 win over leaders DPMM. Meanwhile the rest of the chasing pack, including Tampines Rovers and Home United, all picked up wins. So who were the standout performers over the past week?
It was an easy choice for us this week when deliberating which man to place between the sticks. There was only one who kept a clean sheet this time round and he did it against arguably the strongest side in the league right now.
Prior to this week, leaders Brunei DPMM had scored a total of 32 goals in 12 games and didn't failed to hit the back of the net in a single game. But Warriors FC’s Hassan Sunny was the man to change that. The 30-year-old first denied DPMM hotshot Roy O’ Donovan in a one-on-one opportunity, before coming up with a top-drawer save to deny Azwan Ali Rahman’s fierce effort in the second half. That save against Azwan even earned praise from DPMM coach Steve Kean after the game, but the more significant thing is that he helped his side to close the gap between them and the top to just four points.
Woodlands Wellington’s Yazid Yasin came close this week with yet another solid display against Balestier Khalsa. The 34-year-old thwarted Goran Ljubojevic and company on a couple of occasions with his astute reading of the game. Ljubojevic did eventually get his goal late in the second half, but that was of no fault of the custodian. The Rams eventually collected a victory which closed the gap between them and the top half to just four points.
It is never easy playing for defending champions Tampines Rovers, a team that constantly switches between playing three or four at the back. Under newly-permanent coach Rafi Ali, Tampines look to have settled on the latter and this has resulted in much-improved defensive displays in recent games.
Stags defensive duo Anaz Hadee and Abdil Qaiyyim played crucial parts in their side’s 2-1 win over Courts Young Lions on Friday evening. Anaz was energetic down the right and kept Sherif El-Masri quiet down his flank, while Abdil managed to clear all the balls that came his way and is beginning to build up a good partnership with Mustafic Fahrudin at the back. They still have not kept a clean sheet in their last 10 league games, but one will come sooner or later if they keep up this improvement.
And you just can’t exclude a Warriors FC defender in the lineup this week, can you?
Warriors captain Daniel Bennett was absolutely colossal at the back along with his defensive partner Marin Vidosevic; dominating the aerial exchanges and sweeping the ball away from danger. DPMM’s Roy O’Donovan and Rodrigo Tosi have scored 23 goals between them, but the Warriors defenders restricted them to almost mere spectators at Choa Chu Kang.
Meanwhile left back Zulfadli Zainal Abidin was an assured figure, showing his energy going forward while keeping Joe Gamble on a tight leash. With such displays, it is perhaps criminal that the 26-year-old is not featuring for the national team on a more regular basis.
Everyone loves a goalscoring defender, and Home United’s Kwon Dakyung has to be included in this TOTW. Two headers, one off Lee Kwan-Woo’s corner and another off defensive partner Sirina Camara’s freekick, proved to be pivotal in the Protectors’ come-from-behind win against Geylang International. The 30-year-old is now the league’s most prolific defender, with six goals thus far – the same amount as teammate Fazrul Nawaz.
Without the services of the dependable Tom Beattie, it looked like the Warriors were in for a rough time in the middle of the park against DPMM. However, unlikely hero Shi Jiayi proved a more than capable replacement. The 30-year-old has not started many games this season and had been deployed on the wings when called upon previously.
Sure enough, that rustiness showed when he lost the ball on a couple of occasions. But the former Singapore international recovered well and asserted his influence as the game went on. Meanwhile, rookie winger Suria Prakash was handed a surprise first start of the season by coach Alex Weaver and the 21-year-old kept DPMM right-back Subhi Abdilah real busy down the left.
Tanjong Pagar United have not had their luck with injuries this season, but at least they have the wily Kamel Ramdani back. The 32-year-old’s creativity and vision was a highlight of the Jaguars’ season in 2013, and he showed glimpses of that against Hougang United on Wednesday evening. Always trying to play the killer pass to his forwards, he kept the Cheetahs backline busy cutting out that threat. A superb curling freekick just before the break should have brought his side their first win in eight games, but unfortunately Amin Nasir’s men levelled matters in the dying minutes.
Meanwhile Amin can count on his lucky stars that he has the services of the ever-reliable Lau Meng Meng. The former club captain has not featured much this season, but was professional in doing his job when called upon. Having not played as a winger since his early S.League days, he fitted on to the flanks like a glove.
The 30-year-old played with the enthusiasm of someone 10 years younger and duly scored the equalizer. Slipping behind the Jaguars defence to collect Diego Gama’s through ball, he finished off the chance like a seasoned forward by slotting cleanly past Aurelien Herisson. He even had chances late on to complete a hat-trick. Not too bad still for someone who has never scored in his decade-long career, prior to this!
The last midfield slot goes to Woodlands Wellington's Fadhil Noh. The 25-year-old is a striker by trade, but has filled in on the wings this season with minimal fuss. It was yet another effective performance from Fadhil this week. Apart from keeping opposite counterpart Syed Thaha busy down his flank, he also set the Rams on the way to victory with his first goal of the season. He was at the right place at the right time to nod home after Milos Jevtic had flicked on Rosman Sulaiman's inswinging corner. More is bound to come if he keep up such levels of performance.
Albirex Niigata (Singapore)’s Kento Nagasaki could perhaps could himself unlucky to miss out this week. The 24-year-old once again was the architect behind the White Swan’s attacks as his precise deliveries picked out Kazuki Sakamoto for two of his three goals.
It has been a tough week for the forwards, with all but two scoring more than one goal.
If scoring a perfect hat-trick does not guarantee you a slot in a TOTW, we are not sure what does. Albirex’s Kazuki Sakamoto showed exactly why he is no one-trick pony against Harimau Muda on Friday evening.
First it was a header from Nagasaki’s inswinging corner, next it was an exquisite right-footed lob over young Tigers keeper Ramdhan Hamid before he applied the coup de grace by sweeping home from close range on his left foot. That feat has pushed the 24-year-old all the way up to second in the top scorers chart, level with Tosi and one behind O’Donovan.
Meanwhile Home United’s Fazrul Nawaz continued his scoring revival since recovering from the horrific head injury which he sustained while playing for his previous club LionsXII. The 29-year-old was once again sharp in front of goal against Geylang, turning well to curl a finish past Joey Sim in the first half, before completing his brace late on by tapping home after the custodian had parried Izzdin Shafiq’s fierce drive. He is currently the top local scorer in the league with six goals and that should throw down the gauntlet for the rest of the Singaporeans to do the same, if not overtake him.
One player who could challenge that throne is perhaps Courts Young Lions’ Sahil Suhaimi. The 21-year-old was the bright spark in the developmental side’s narrow loss to Tampines; lashing a sharp finish beyond Ridhuan Bahrudin’s reach while giving the Stags defence a few problems with his off-the-ball running. With five goals thus far, it looks like he will be the biggest threat to Fazrul’s throne.