Team of the Week - S.League Rd 8
Although he made one blunder which led to the only Tampines’ goal, Woodlands Wellington goalkeeper Yazid Yasin, was in outstanding form once again as he repelled attack-after-attack with some vintage reflex saves. This performance gave him the edge over two other impeccable claimants: Shahril Jantan of Home United and Hassan Sunny of Warriors FC.
Both of the latter two kept clean sheets but with their team’s forwards on song, their efforts were less of a contributing factor to their respective team’s wins than that of Yazid, whose side just scraped home 2-1 in what was a genuinely tight contest. Shahril had to work even harder for his clean-sheet this time, as he made a few crucial stops to prevent Tanjong Pagar from getting back into the game. Hassan was at his best to punch away numerous crosses which Albirex persisted in pumping into the six yard box, despite the national team keeper’s mastery of his area.
Goh Swee Swee has played at right-back before, several times, although he’s definitely better known as a speedy forward possessing a lethal long-range shot. Pressed into service again in defence by coach Darren Stewart who chose to play Andy Ahmad in an attacking role this time, Goh played his alternate role to perfection, rarely giving the attackers he was marking any space in which to operate.
Boris Raspudic was also imperious in defence in his Steve-Kean-led DPMM side’s slender win over a dogged Hougang United at Hougang Stadium. The Bosnian Serb defender is the kind of player who can best be judged on his team’s niggardly goals-against column on the competition table. He’s nothing flashy to see, but is as solid as a rock. Hougang’s Brazilian strike-force of Diego Gama and Geison Moura had been deadly so far this season, but Raspudic led his Brunei backline brilliantly to stifle out any threat from the in-form pairing.
Warriors FC’s central defender Marin Vidosevic, on the other hand, arguably does have a flamboyant side to his game and while venturing forward only infrequently, he does tend to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Against Albirex Niigata at Jurong east Stadium in his team’s convincing 4-0 win, he was able to ensure the White Swans’ main man, Kazuki Sakamoto, never had any real room in which to show his skills. Vidosevic, alongside his similarly-sound captain, Daniel Bennett, was often seen heading up-field with the ball at his feet and continually kept an eye open for attacking options.
Balestier-Khalsa left-back Syed Thaha has been around for a long time now, but he seems to get better with each passing season. His usual tight control of the left-side of defence is one key factor in his inclusion this time, but he’s also known for his canny free-kicks, from wide and deep, which often cause havoc in the opposition goalmouth. One of those produced his Tigers’ side’s only goal for agile striker Goran Ljubojevic, who climbed highest to nod in skipper Paul Cunningham’s header back into the area.
Among other defenders of note in the round was Home United’s Kwon Da-Kyung, who showed up well against Tanjong Pagar United in a central defensive role. The Korean centre back popped up to score two handy goals as the Protectors demolished their opponents 4-0 at Bishan Stadium.
Lee Kwan-Woo is always a key performer for his Home United side and seems to be managing to stay fitter this season than last. The Korean playmaker has been able to make a consistent impact in his team’s matches and this week was no exception. He was again seen at his best against a depleted Tanjong Pagar United at Bishan Stadium, while admittedly dealing with a Jaguars’ side a little short of any major midfielders themselves, due to injuries and suspensions.
Atsushi Shimono doesn’t score many goals and he certainly took his winning goal against Tampines Rovers superbly last Friday in the televised match at Jalan Besar Stadium, but it was his commanding performance in the centre of the park that guaranteed his place in this Team of the Week selection once again. He fought for and invariably won every scrap he entered into against a Tampines’ midfield not short of experience or ability.
Home United’s Izzdin Shafiq once again had another fine showing in midfield and gets the nod this time in the other central role. The 23-year-old was ever-present for the Protectors and popped up late in the game to put the icing on the cake with the team's fourth goal of the night.
The Brunei team’s wide midfielder, Azwan Ali Rahman, continued his breakthrough season under Steve Kean with a match-winning goal from outside his usual position.
Hougang’s Nurhilmi Jasni also came close to grabbing a goal in the tight game against DPMM, but his final touch let him down Otherwise, the tall and reliable local youngster put in a decent shift in the middle of the park in place of the more experienced, but suspended, Azhar Sairudin
Head and shoulders above the rest, even if you didn’t get the chance to see how cleverly he took some of his goals against Albirex Niigata, was Warriors striker Nicholas Velez. His four-bagger of goals is nothing new for the Warriors, whose former stars Mirko Grabovac and Aleksandar Duric have been known to achieve similar feats, but it left Albirex shell-shocked, especially as their game-plan may well have revolved around their opponent’s top scorer, Miroslav Pejic, rather than his usually deeper-lying team-mate. The roles were reversed this time and with deadly consequences. Velez got a goal with virtually every opportunity he was given and showed true class with his finishing.
Shaded somewhat, but still effective, as he has been for some weeks now, was Geylang International’s front man Leonel Felice, whose equaliser maintained his team’s unbeaten run under new coach, Jorg Steinebrunner, when up against a hard-to-beat Balestier Khalsa at Toa Payoh Stadium in a rain-interrupted match.
Other strikers to come into contention this week were the usually prolific Rodrigo Tosi and Roy O’Donovan of Brunei DPMM, both having trouble in scoring this time, but whose contributions ensured their opponents, Hougang United, had their hands full all match. O’Donovan is still finding it hard to miss the frame of the goal, when clearly intending his shots to carry the ball inside the net, but the DPMM faithful will expect him to get it right sooner or later given the ability he's shown so far.