Team of the Week - S.League Rd 26
It was not an easy choice deliberating over which custodian to pick this week.
While Hougang United’s Jasper Chan and Tanjong Pagar’s Aurelien Herisson kept shutouts in their respective games, they were relatively untroubled in goal.
Tampines Rovers’ Justin Pasfield was excellent throughout his side’s 2-1 loss to Warriors FC as he denied Nicolas Velez on a number of occasions, before a moment of hesitation saw him let in Miroslav Pejic’s excellent freekick.
While he was unable to stop Rodrigo Tosi’s precise header, the 27-year-old was key in fending off wave after wave of DPMM attacks as he denied the Tosi and strike partner Roy O’Donovan in numerous one-on-one situations.
He was alert till the very last minute when he had to stretch to tip over an O’Donovan header which was destined for the top right corner.
With Warriors FC securing a hard-fought 2-1 victory over dethroned champions Tampines Rovers, it should come as no surprise to see two of their defenders being nominated in this TOTW.
Since joining Warriors FC midway through the season, Ismail Yunos’ career has seen a renaissance of sorts and he once again came up with another sturdy display.
The 28-year-old was disciplined as he shackled Ismadi Mukhtar down the left side, forcing the newly-minted Singapore international to switch flanks in the second half. He could have notched an assist too as his superb through ball picked out Nicolas Velez, but the latter was denied by Pasfield from point-blank range.
Of course, Ismail did not do it all alone with his captain Daniel Bennett also his usual unflappable self at the back. After the defence left Noh Alam Shah unopposed for the opening goal, the 36-year-old rallied the troops and ensured the rearguard closed out the game with no further goals conceded.
In particular, the veteran was dominant in the air and cleared anything that came his way, limiting Alam Shah and Miljan Mrdakovic’s impact in front of goal.
The last slot in defence went to a resurgent Syaqir Sulaiman after a domineering show for Hougang against Geylang International.
Having lost his place to Wahyudi Wahid after coming back from injury, the 28-year-old had to stay patient for his chance – with the Geylang game marking only his second start of the season.
However, he showed no signs of rustiness as he stopped the Eagles from supplying balls to target man Leonel Felice, while forcing the Argentinian hitman wide on a number of occasions.
With his side failing to grind out a victory against Balestier, DPMM’s Roberto Alviz was one of the few players who emerged with any credit.
The Croatian was industrious down the right as he constantly worked out openings for his forwards. It was his inch-perfect cross that led to Rodrigo Tosi nodding home the opener, although the lead proved to be a short-lived one.
Albirex Niigata’s Kento Nagasaki may not always be an automatic starter, but when he does, he often wreaks havoc in and amongst the opponents’ defence.
The 24-year-old’s close control and neat playmaking proved too hot for the Home United defence to handle, at least in the first 30 minutes.
Albirex’s opening goal came from his superb run which took him past Kwon Da-kyung inside the box before curling his effort past Shahril Jantan. The second came via his brilliantly-timed slide-rule pass which took out Juma’at Jantan, allowing Kazuki Sakamoto to stroll through and lash home the eventual winner.
He could have capped the night off with another goal, but his cheeky bending effort in the second half beat Shahril but not the foot of the post.
The Frenchman’s influence was massive as he scored twice and contributed to another two goals. After tapping home Asraf Rashid’s cross on the half-hour mark to make it 2-0, his superb first-time ball carved out the young Tigers’ defence for Monsef Zerka to slalom through for the third.
A good corner delivery led to Hafiz Osman heading home on 62 minutes, before Etiemble saved the best for last three minutes later – bamboozling his marker inside the box before firing into the bottom left corner.
Meanwhile Hougang United’s Fazli Jaafar earns a nod too for his brilliant wing play against Geylang. After being dropped for the last two games, it seemed like the 31-year-old was on a mission to prove what he was truly capable of.
Tormenting his cousin Ridhuan Muhammad down the left with his constant runs, it was his persistence in getting the ball into the box that led to Kento Fukuda deflecting in for the opening goal.
Fazli did not rest on his laurels for the second half, putting in another wicked ball which led to Firman Hanif lashing home after the Geylang defence failed to clear their lines. He finished the night off by following up on the rebound from his free-kick to set up Geison Moura.
The final slot in midfield goes to none other than Warriors FC match-winner Miroslav Pejic. It was not the easiest of games for the Croatian attacker as he had to face up to Singapore first-choice left back Shaiful Esah down his flank.
True enough, he was on the receiving end of some tenacious challenges including a petulant kick by Shaiful which went unpunished by the referee. However the 28-year-old carried on with the task at hand and eventually found the mark 11 minutes from time.
20 yards out from goal, he curled the perfect freekick over the defensive wall and past a rooted Pasfield for what could be a title-deciding goal.
Courts Young Lions’ Iqbal Hussain earns a rare spot in the TOTW after playing crucial roles in his side’s two games this week.
Against Woodlands Wellington on Tuesday, he set the development side on the road to victory with a rasping shot which evaded the reach of Yazid Yasin. Then against Geylang four days later, he rescued them a draw via a humdinger from range after the Eagles defence failed to close him down.
It was not just about the goals. The 21-year-old showed glimpses of his true potential for once; making supporting runs and linking up well in attack.
Last but not least, there is Hougang United’s Geison Moura. The Brazilian attacker has been arguably one of the signings of the season and he continued to show why he deserves all the plaudits.
Having endured a difficult first half, he upped the ante after the break and got his just rewards. After Shah Hirul’s clearance ricocheted off Firman in the 50th minute, Geison Moura raced onto the loose ball before drilling in a brilliant finish inside Siddiq Durimi’s near post.
The 28-year-old then distracted the Eagles backline for the third goal, producing a superb turn to leave his marker for dead before slamming home the final goal 14 minutes from the end.