Team of the Week - S.League Rd 23
The 2014 S.League season resumed this week with four games played over three days. Leaders Brunei DPMM suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to title rivals Home United while Hougang United returned to winning ways with an emphatic 3-0 mauling of Woodlands Wellington.
One of the hallmarks of a good player is recovering from previous disappointments and Fadhil Salim truly epitomized that in Hougang United’s 3-0 win away in Woodlands. The Cheetahs custodian was dropped for their last game against Harimau Muda after two lacklustre displays, but seemed to be back to his best after being recalled by Amin Nasir this week.
The 31-year-old was an assured figure in goal, coming out to collect most of the set pieces and keeping out a number of fierce shots to deny the Rams a consolation goal.
His masterful display edged out Tampines Rovers’ Justin Pasfield who did well to tip a close-range Kazuki Sakamoto effort onto the crossbar to keep a clean sheet against Albirex Niigata (Singapore).
It has been a solid season for Hougang’s Wahyudi Wahid as the striker-turned-defender put in another good shift at the back to frustrate the Woodlands forwards.
Chang Jo-Yoon and Moon Soon-Ho found little joy in the attacking third against the 24-year-old, who showed his astute reading of the game by snuffing out through balls and producing a number of key defensive headers.
Kwon Da-kyung continued his prolific form by netting the winner for Home United in their gusty 2-1 comeback victory at Bandar Seri Begawan. Coming on as a half-time substitute for Fazli Ayob, the 30-year-old kept the DPMM attackers largely at bay and popped up right at the death to head home Indra Sahdan’s inswinging corner.
That was Kwon’s seventh goal of the season, cementing his reputation as one of the most potent defenders in the league.
Meanwhile Norihiro Kawakami continued his good form after a neat display against Tampines Rovers. The 27-year-old has been a rock at the back for Albirex since joining from the Stags in the mid-season transfer window and it was no difference on Wednesday night.
He put his knowledge of his former club to good advantage by reading and nullifying many of the Stags' attacking moves.
Hotshots Miljan Mrdakovic, Jozef Kaplan and Noh Alam Shah, who came on in the last 25 minutes, were effectively shackled as the Stags struggled to create any clear-cut chance all night in his presence.
The final spot in defence goes to DPMM’s Azwan Saleh. Despite his side falling to defeat at home against Home, the 26-year-old put in a strong showing on the left side of defence against the fearsome Home strike force.
A superb deep cross on 76 minutes picked out Rodrigo Tosi for what seemed like the winning goal, before they ultimately tripped up through two set-piece plays from the visitors.
Perhaps not enough credit is given to unsung heroes like Nurhilmi Jasni in Hougang’s rise this season.
The 27-year-old’s energy and penetration down the right was one of the key reasons for Hougang’s emphatic victory. Nodding home his fourth goal of the season in the first half via Igor Cerina’s flick-on from Azhar Sairudin’s free kick, his constant harassing of makeshift leftback Milos Jevtic after the break led to Geison Moura stealing in to tap home the third goal of the night.
While Tampines failed to return to winning ways, Mustafic Fahrudin was certainly not one of the players to be blamed.
The Stags captain protected his back four well alongside Jacob Butler and provided good support for Shahdan Sulaiman, although they eventually failed to crack the Albirex defence.
On the other hand, opposite counterpart Koki Akasaka put up a strong showing as Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s men attempted to steal a win away in Clementi.
The 23-year-old was an elusive presence for the White Swans in what appeared to be a free role, where he ran at the defence and was instrumental in setting up many meaningful attacking moves which nearly came to fruition.
Mustaqim Manzur forced himself into this midfield selection after shining for Geylang International in an otherwise uneventful 1-1 draw against Tanjong Pagar United.
His expertise during dead ball situations was the main outlet for the Eagles to breach the opposition defence and his fierce free kick led to Leonel Felice sweeping in the equalizer.
Only one player over the past week hit more than a single goal and that was none other than Hougang striker Geison Moura.
The 28-year-old had not found the net in the past couple of matches, but returned to his scoring best against Woodlands.
His two goals was an excellent showcase of his goal-poaching abilities; firstly reacting the fastest from three yards out after the Rams had failed to clear Fazli Jaafar’s corner before making a late run into the box to tap home after Ahmadulhaq Che Omar’s did not managed to get the ball away in time.
It was the Brazilian’s 16th and 17th goals of the season as he even found time to thrill the Hougang fans with a couple of tricks and flicks thereafter.
Geison is joined by Geylang’s Leonel Felice in what looks like a tasty South American strike partnership.
The 31-year-old was his usual aggressive self in attack, as he roamed freely to keep the Tanjong Pagar defenders under pressure while waiting for any half-chance to pounce. His unwavering spirit led to him scoring in typical opportunistic fashion, tapping home from close range after Mustaqim’s free kick was parried by Jaguars goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson.