Vallee banking on resilient Jaguars to bring home League Cup

 Tanjong Pagar United are looking to clinch their first domestic trophy since 1998 on Friday evening, after reaching the StarHub League Cup Final.

Jaguars head coach Patrick Vallee will be banking on his team’s resilience as they take on Brunei side Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota (DPMM) Football Club.

The 2013 Singapore Cup finalists have embarked on a morale-boosting run in this mid-season tournament as they defeated Albirex Niigata (Singapore), semi-professional side Police Sports Association, Warriors FC and Hougang United en route to the final.

Their wins over the latter two in the knockout rounds were more impressive as the Jaguars had to endure 120 minutes of football on each occasion to advance.

With a squad back to full strength having been previously decimated by injuries earlier this season, the French tactician believes the Jaguars have what it takes to beat Steve Kean’s highly-fancied side and lift the trophy at Jalan Besar Stadium.

“My players have shown in this tournament that they have good fitness and endurance,” said the 52-year-old, who had previously won this tournament with the now-defunct Etoile FC in 2010.

“We have to work very hard for every game and for us to achieve this much having played two games in 120 minutes, possibly three if we go the distance again in the final, in a week is not easy.”

In Tanjong Pagar’s earlier encounter with DPMM in the S.League this season in Bandar Seri Begawan, the league leaders emerged triumphant 4-0, with Rodrigo Tosi, Roy O’Donovan and Shahrazen Said among the scorers.

Tosi will be suspended for tomorrow’s final though after he picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in DPMM’s semi-final against Geylang International on Monday.

The absence of the influential Brazilian attacker has only made Vallee more worried about the other potential threats the Brunei professional side possess in their arsenal though.

“If we think that DPMM are weaker without Tosi, it will be an insult to our opponents. It is just like saying we couldn’t play without (then-suspended) Ahmad Latiff in the semi-final,” he said.

“Tosi or no Tosi, I simply focus on my Tanjong Pagar side. DPMM do not just depend on him alone and have other good key players who can shine in O’Donovan, (Joe) Gamble, (Roberto) Alviz and their talented local Azwan Salleh.

“In the league, they will need Tosi for a long period of time. On a one-off match, I am not sure they will miss Tosi much.”

With club skipper Hafiz Osman also suspended for the final, French centre-back Anthony Aymard could be set for a return at the heart of the Jaguars defence having previously started from the bench in the semi-final match against Hougang.

Vallee has also allayed fears that Kean could tweak his tactics and turn the match in DPMM’s bid to win their third League Cup on Friday.

This year, the majority of the Brunei side’s matches was won after the half-time interval thanks to the former Blackburn Rovers manager’s adjustments, playing a vital role towards their present standing in all competitions.

“A lot of teams play better in the second half. If you look at Hougang’s results this year, they especially score a lot of goals in the final 10 minutes,” Vallee pointed out with a wry smile.

“DPMM are a strong team but we are not scared of facing them in either half or extra time. We need to endure, whether it is over 90 or 120 minutes or through penalties.

“I will look for a good point throughout the entire game where we will finish off at a good moment. Whether earlier or later, I don’t know.”

Image Credit: Weixiang Lim