Asian Football

Our Singapore Premier League Team Of The Week #7

Ah well, short-lived, wasn’t it? With increasing community cases in our little red dot, we have since moved to Phase 2 measures and consequently, fans are once again no longer allowed to attend live matches. That being said, I am thankful that the Singapore Premier League still continues. Barring the absence of fans, this week was no different, with the goals raining down.

Speaking of rain, the lighting system got activated in the Tanjong Pagar and Young Lions fixture, meaning it had to be called off and postponed to another day. With that in mind, no Young Lions and Tanjong Pagar players make the cut.

The Defence

Sanders Saurajen – GK [Geylang International]

When the team sheets first came out, many would have been puzzled by the Geylang custodian’s inclusion. “Sanders who?” many would have thought. Yet, by the end of the evening, Sanders would have gained a fair few admirers for his heroics against the Sailors. Mind you, this was against a team that whipped the Eagles 8-0 a few weeks ago so it would have felt daunting for young Sanders to step in goal. Yes, while he may have benefited from better defensive displays from the Geylang backline (than the 8-0 thumping), the young keeper’s efforts cannot be understated. Making brilliant saves against some of the SPL’s best is no easy feat and Sanders should be given a pat on his back for an excellent debut.

Kazuki Hashioka [Albirex Niigata (S)]

The Albirex skipper is somewhat an unsung hero, hidden by the hype around his other teammates Tsuboi and Ryoya Taniguchi. Hashioka’s contribution cannot be understated. As a right-back, he is one of, if not the, best in the league. His forward runs, crosses, and passing is matched by his ability to track back and quell attacks. A truly exceptional player. Clubs in Singapore would do well to snap him up, and if not, he would surely move to a bigger club in the region.

Yuki Ichikawa [Geylang International]

Yes, the Geylang defence may have conceded two goals, but the veteran Japanese defender ensured the Eagles did not fall behind by more. In an injury-ravaged Geylang side, Yuki was inspiring. Block after block, the Eagles captain was throwing himself in front of every shot to ensure that the Sailors don’t extend their lead and keep Geylang in the running. In recent weeks, Yuki might have looked somewhat shaky with a few errors but he reminded everyone why he’s cemented his position in the Geylang backline for the past 7 years.

Barry Maguire [Geylang International]

Yes, I know that Geylang conceded two goals and yet I’ve put a backline largely consisting of Geylang players. Hear me out. Barry Maguire was deployed as a central defender against Lion City Sailors because the Eagles are plagued by injury problems. Yet, quite honestly, Barry did a decent job in the heart of defence alongside Yuki. The Dutchman helped to nullify Sailors attacks. Truth be told both goals were not the fault of the Yuki-Maguire central defensive partnership. The first goal was a mistake by Darren Teh, while little could be done about Saifullah Akbar’s strike out of nowhere. One thing is for certain though, the Eagles need reinforcements and they need them fast.

Shuya Yamashita [Albirex Niigata (S)]

The Japanese defender who has consistently put in solid performances may not have been able to help his side earn a clean sheet, but he was solid throughout the match. Sometimes it’s very hard to select one particular Japanese defender from Albirex because they play in such a fantastic system. Their defensive organization is arguably the best in the league. That being said, Shuya Yamashita makes the cut because his over the top through pass was executed with perfection because it precisely found Hashioka who easily beat Armin Bosnjak and supplied the pass to Tsuboi for an easy tap-in.

The Midfield

Saifullah Akbar [Lion City Sailors]

The SPL 2020 Young Player of the Year once again demonstrated why he won that accolade. In a star-studded Sailors team that could not find the goal to put them in front, Saifullah duly delivered. Driving in from the wings his delicious long shot from the edge of the box found the bottom left corner of the Eagles’ net. Up till that point, new boy Sanders Saurajen had done well to keep the Sailors out.

Kaishu Yamazaki [Hougang United]

The engine room of Hougang United continued to drive the Cheetahs’ attacks. Coming up against a tricky opponent like Balestier was never going to be easy for any team, but Kaishu Yamazaki once again showed up. Equalizing the Balestier opener with a sweet long-range effort that seems to have caught out Balestier custodian Zaiful Nizam, Kaishu would go on to supply an assist to Lionel Tan. His corner kick found the young central defender, who duly headed in the Cheetah’s second goal. In a game where Doi failed to score, the engine room ensured that the goal-scoring responsibility would be shared.

Faris Ramli [Lion City Sailors]

Lion City Sailors appeared lost and stale. They had no real offence, and Stipe’s goal, whilst individually brilliant, was truly a moment of luck after a moment of error from Darren Teh. Faris Ramli’s introduction changed everything for the Sailors, and they certainly became more alive with the winger charging down the flank. If anything, this goes to show how stacked the Sailors bench is, and odds are, they would have to make room for one more given Harris Harun’s impending arrival. More importantly, Faris’ performance justifies why he needs to start games. Leaving him on the bench is a waste, and rotating between him and Gabriel would help freshen the squad and drive both players to work hard for a starting spot.

The Attack

Boris Kopitović [Tampines Rovers]

Singapore Premier Clubs beware, Big Bad Boris has returned, and the Montenegrin is hungry for goals. For some time now, while Boris has notched in the goals, something seemed amiss. Boris didn’t seem as hungry; as tenacious for goals. Against Albirex, his first goal showed that tenacity and drive to score and his thunderous effort from the spot-kick demonstrated the confidence flowing through his veins. If the striker keeps this up, beware SPL clubs: Boris is going to blow your doors down.

Kiyoshiro Tsuboi [Albirex Niigata (S)]

Honestly though, are you surprised? Tsuboi may have not looked his best against his Stags but still found the back of the net twice. A delightful header to break the deadlock, Tsuboi was off the mark and his simple tap in from Hashioka’s low drive cross made you think the Japanese forward was destined for his third hattrick of the season. While he may not have bagged his third goal, Tsuboi highlights how important he is for Albirex. 

Shuhei Hoshino [Balestier Khalsa]

The 2018 SPL Golden Boot winner may not have scored against the Cheetahs, but his two assists helped. His first assist was a simple layoff to Croatian forward Šime Žužul, whose low driven shot opened the floodgates. The second assist was definitely more brilliant from the Japanese forward. Hoshino expertly sets up Faizal Raffi with a one-touch layoff from Hazzuwan Halim’s long-range lob. That being said, the Japanese forward is probably itching to find his scoring boots yet again and I hope he does start scoring on a more regular basis

So that’s my pick for team of the week! Let me know if you agree with the picks! As usual leave a comment and below are special mentions for Match Day 9 and the makeup-fixture between Young Lions and Tampines

Special Mentions

Special Mentions for TAM-YGL Game

Image Credits to Singapore Premier League and Hougang United

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