After a two-month break, the Singapore Premier League is finally back. This past weekend saw the return of our beloved sides battle it out and with the return of fixtures, comes the return of the SoccerKakis Singapore Premier League Team of The Week series.
The second leg of the SPL started off with a banger of a match on Friday as Lion City Sailors sailed to Jurong East Stadium to take on the White Swans. The fixture between first-placed Albirex Niigata (S) and second-placed Sailors had a lot to offer and did not disappoint with a lot of end-to-end action. This match was also newly appointed head coach Kim Do-Hoon’s first competitive game in the SPL and it marked the competitive debut of Hariss Harun for the Sailors. While the fixture ended in a draw, the
Elsewhere, third-placed Hougang United failed to capitalize on the 1-1 draw between Albirex and the Sailors as they succumbed to a shock 4-1 defeat to Tanjong Pagar United. The Jaguars look like they are a team with renewed energy and purpose. Something has certainly clicked this mid-season break.
Speaking of transformative clubs, it is remarkable that Geylang International has truly turned things around. While the Eagles have done well during the mid-season window to acquire Abdil Qaiyyimm and Afiq Yunos to shore up their backline, they did little to bolster their attack, especially since the departure of Sylvano Comvalius. Yet, despite conceding early, the Eagles managed to pull a come-back victory against Balestier Khalsa.
The Sun is shining brightly on the Sailors because, make no mistake, Hassan is back. Yes, we need to see how he performs in the upcoming fixtures to determine if this was an anomaly but let’s just focus on his heroics against Albirex this past Friday night. While he did make an impressive total of 8 saves against the Swans, the statistics do not do the player justice. Hassan was making impossible saves to keep Albirex at bay. Had it not been for the penalty conceded just before the end of the first half, Hassan would have surely have kept a clean sheet. Heck, he even had a hand on Ryoya Taniguchi’s penalty.
I am thrilled that some players from the #NOCAP squad have made it into this week’s team of the week and two players from the Tanjong Pagar backline make their way into the squad. The first is Shahrin Saberin, who has done really well against a formidable Hougang team. Up against the likes of Tomoyuki Doi and Gilberto Fortunato, Shahrin showed a lot of class and composure in dealing with Hougang’s attacks. A player who isn’t afraid to put his body on the line to thwart shots, he was a valuable player in ensuring that the Jaguars maintained their lead. Hopefully, we see more of the same from him!
The towering Brazilian centre-back makes his presence known game after game. Jorge always makes his presence known by his powerful headers. Constantly clearing incoming crosses and lobbed through balls with his head. While Hassan’s heroics definitely prevented the Sailors from going behind, we cannot forget the Brazilian central defender’s efforts. Out of 15 challenges, he had an 87% success rate – a truly remarkable number given that Albirex were piling on the pressure for a good chunk of the game.
Captain Charisma was in action again and he features in this week’s team of the week for many reasons. Delwinder was constantly snuffing out Hougang’s attacks with a series of important challenges for the ball. However, what stood out in addition to his defensive prowess was is his leadership ability. Constantly urging his teammates, Delwinder was also organizing the defence. If you rewatch the match, you need to keep your eyes peeled on Delwinder. His small acts on the pitch demonstrate his principles. In the dying embers of the match, Delwinder even gave custodian Zharfan Rohaizad a hug for making a vital save. It’s always nice to have a teammate who isn’t just a sentinel in defence but also someone who has your back.
When Adam Swandi was stretchered off in the 13th minute, I felt really sorry that his chance to shine had been robbed. While this segment is on Hafiz, I hope that Adam will recover soon and return to the first team foray.
When Kim decided to introduce Hafiz Nor into the game, his tactics shifted with Faris Ramli playing behind Stipe and Hafiz Nor slotting down the right. He might be 32 years old but Hafiz is demonstrating why he needs to be played more. The pacey and skilful winger was arguably the best player for Sailors in what was truly a lacklustre first half. In the second half, he was linking well with Diego Lopes. So much so that, in the 72nd minute, Diego found Hafiz, who managed to drill a low driven cross to find Stipe Plazibat, who duly fired the ball past Takahiro Koga and into the back of the net.
The “Million-dollar Man” showed his class of yet again against Albirex by engineering the move that resulted in the 72nd-minute equalizer by the Sailors. It’s worth mentioning that Diego began the game on the bench and it was a move that definitely surprised many. That being said, it seems like it was a good move by Kim Do-Hoon, who seemed to bring the best out of Diego during the second-half proceedings. Diego’s introduction helped stabilize the Sailors midfield and they began to grow more and more into the game. Once again, he justified why he was brought in for € 1.8 million. He could have netted the winner too, but his sweet 89th-minute effort that would have potentially won the tie was too close to Koga.
Barry Maguire is once again reprising his role as a central attacking midfielder really well. Besides missing a good chunk of the first round of fixtures due to an injury suffered on the first day of the season, he has often been deployed out of position to plug gaps due to a host of other injuries to the Geylang squad in defence. Thankfully, yesterday, new acquisitions Afiq Yunos, who played as centre-back, and Danny Kim, who operated as a defensive midfielder, allowed Barry to play in his preferred number 10 position. What an impact he made as well. Two critical assists – one to Moresche and another to Amy Recha – saw Geylang record only their third win this season.
If there’s one thing about Shodai that you notice straight away, it’s that he is a hard-working player. Against Hougang, he terrorized the left-flank with his speed and dribbling. Frequently whipping the ball into the center of the box, Shodai finally connected with Luiz Júnior in the 67th minute when his low driven pass went through Reo Nishiguchi’s legs for Luiz to bolt it into the back of the net. If you want to know why Shodai is such a top player, read more about it in our Ones to Watch.
Reo Nishiguchi is truly an underrated star. His final goal against Hougang illustrated his ability. A left-footed finesse shot off the woodwork extended the Jaguars’ lead by two goals. He was naturally surrounded by his Tanjong Pagar United teammates who came over to celebrate with him. That goal confirmed Tanjong Pagar’s victory and what a goal it was! Besides his impressive strike that gave the Jaguars a two-goal cushion, he set up Anaqi Ismit to open the floodgates in the 48th minute. An overall brilliant display.
The Brazilian demonstrated his samba flair against the Tigers, regularly dazzling with nutmegs and his dribbling. When Geylang conceded an early goal, most fans would probably have thought that they would face an uphill challenge to come away with a positive result. After all, Balestier is one of the most frustrating teams to play against. Yet, Moresche tamed the Tigers with his skills which resulted in a goal and an assist.
Amy Recha is one other player that is a part of the #NOCAP squad and if he keeps up performances like this, he could truly make it into the national team sooner rather than later. His brace against Balestier Khalsa brings his total tally for this season up to 6 goals, which means he’s ranked joint-eight top scorer in the league and he’s currently joint-second top local scorer alongside Yasir Hanapi. Gabriel Quak is the only Singaporean that has scored more goals. So heads up, Tatsuma, it’s time to monitor Amy Recha a tad bit more.
Kim Ng gives us his take on honourable mentions for this week!
The goal-scoring midfielder was someone we earmarked to lead the attack, as the Swans had to make do following the loss of star striker Kiyoshiro Tsuboi. Fittingly enough, Ryoya scored the only goal for Albirex (albeit a penalty) and had a team-high 5 shots on goal. If not for the heroics of a certain Hassan Sunny, he certainly was primed to bag more.
The Brazilian definitely had the striker’s touch, beautifully finishing off a well-orchestrated move from Tanjong Pagar’s 3 foreign players, Reo, Shodai and Luiz Junior himself. The shot gave debuting keeper Izwan Mahbud no chance, as it hit the top corner of the net with immense power to give the Jaguars the lead again.
In the truly epic battle of relentless attack, Hassan Sunny shone brightest, but one should not discount the trusty Japanese keeper between the Swans’ sticks. Whereas the Sailors custodian shone with cat-like reflex saves, Koga kept the attack at bay with elite positioning and goalkeeping fundamentals. Thus, as much as the game was about both sides’ offensive prowess, we thought that it was just as much a battle of the league’s two best goalkeepers – very much worthy of the Team of the Week.
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