Team of the Week - S.League Rd 20
It's a little different this week, with a rash of fixtures meaning S.League fans hardly have time to breath before their team is out on the pitch again. To save us some unnecessary headaches, we've decided that Round 20 will consist of picks from August 18 to August 23. This allows for player nominations from all teams except Harimau Muda B, who contested the recent Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy semi-finals.
Clean sheets can mean two things for a goalkeeper. Either you bank on your defence to have an easy evening between the posts, or you toil to ensure nothing gets past your way. Aided by an excellent Geylang International defence, Joey Sim Wei Zhi barely broke a sweat against a shot-shy Woodlands Wellington as his side sauntered to a 2-0 win.
Meanwhile, Tanjong Pagar United goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson had to take the tougher route in earning his clean sheet. With the Cheetahs finding themselves under relentless pressure from Tampines Rovers in the final moments of the game, the French-Brazilian stopper stopped everything the defending champions threw at them as the Jaguars hung on for a 1-0 win at Clementi Stadium.
He put his huge frame on the line, making a couple of fine stops and intercepting all the crosses inside his box, as he was the rock the Tanjong Pagar defence drew strength on against the sea of yellow shirts swarming in desperate wave after wave of futile attacks.
Also standing tall for Tanjong Pagar in their shock victory over Tampines was Hanafi Salleh. The full-back put in a flawless performance as he made several vital interceptions on the ground and in the air, and showed sound reading of the game to thwart the Stags forwards before they could make further inroads.
Easily the most outstanding Jaguars defender of the evening, it was his positioning that saw the defending champions abandon their traditional approach and play desperate long balls forward without success in the final moments of the game.
The reason why Sim had such a comfortable time at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday was down to the dependable Geylang International defensive duo of Kento Fukuda and Yuki Ichikawa. The two Japanese imports were dominant as they kept the Woodlands front two of Moon Soon Ho and Chang Jo Yoon quiet.
It is not hard to see why the club have offered new contracts to the pair to stay on for another season in what has been a rare highlight in an otherwise mediocre season for the Eagles.
Despite another reliable performance from veteran Warriors FC skipper Daniel Bennett as he marshalled his defence in their 4-1 win over Courts Young Lions, he narrowly misses out as the other three displayed outstanding defensive capabilities to help their respective clubs to clean sheets and, more importantly, three points.
Promising Warriors winger Suria Prakash continued his steady rise in the first-team with another captivating performance on the flank as his side sauntered to a comfortable victory over Young Lions.
Using his pace and range of skills, he often got the better of the opposing full-backs as he delivered a couple of assists in the Warriors’ rout to show why he has remained integral in Alex Weaver’s plans as the Englishman tries to restore the eight-time champions back to their glory days.
With key imports Monsef Zerka and Kamel Ramdani suspended and watching from the sidelines, the burden of carrying Tanjong Pagar's attack fell to Sebestien Etiemble, as the French midfielder delivered against title chasers Tampines.
Having come close once earlier in the first half, Etiemble stepped up when it mattered. He found space to place his shot inside the box beyond Stags custodian Justin Pasfield for the only goal of the match on the stroke of half time.
Also taking centre stage in midfield was Home United's star player Lee Kwan Woo. The veteran South Korean had a storming first half as his goals spurred the Protectors into an amazing 4-1 half-time lead against fellow title challengers Albirex Niigata (Singapore) before settling for an eventual 4-2 win.
He scored a trademark direct free kick from outside the box that left Kenjiro Ogino with no chance and later finished off a fine assist from Bruno Castanheira to put his team in a commanding position.
Completing the midfield quartet was a third Geylang player in Franco Chivilo. The Argentinean central midfielder barely put a foot wrong as he broke wave after wave of Woodlands attacks in the middle of the park and played some delightful balls through for his teammates.
It was his influence on the game that allowed Ridhuan Muhammad, Hafiz Nor and Aliff Shafaein to display their talents in the final third, with the skipper netting one of the goals as they comfortably collected all three points on offer.
While Rodrigo Tosi kept up his prolific goal scoring rate in the absence of suspended strike partner Roy O’Donovan with a brace for league leaders Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota in their 3-3 draw against Balestier Khalsa, it was another forward who saved the day for them.
Trailing by two goals at half-time, Adi Said came off the bench and showed little sign of match fatigue after his international commitments in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for Brunei Darussalam. He continued his prolific form in Toa Payoh when he was well-positioned to head in a cross and reduce the deficit three minutes after his introduction at the break.
His tireless running gave the Balestier defenders problems as he continued to threaten with shots from varying distances inside and around the edge of the box. His off-the-ball running also relieved some of the burden off Tosi, allowing the Brazilian to focus on being a nuisance inside the penalty area.
Another nippy forward causing some discomfort in opposing defences was Sahil Suhaimi. The effervescent Courts Young Lions striker was heavily involved in the goals for his side against Warriors and Hougang United last week.
He created the assist for Jordan Webb to produce a shock lead against title challengers Warriors, and scored the match winner in their 2-1 upset against surprise packages Hougang over the weekend.
Completing the trio of deserving strikers in the team of the week was Warriors’ Nicolas Velez. Fresh from his involvement with the Singapore Selection in their friendly match against Italian champions Juventus, the Argentinian forward returned to club football in style.
Displaying skill to trouble the Young Lions defenders, Velez showed lethal finishing with a hat-trick to take home the match ball and maintained his side’s push for their first title in five years.