Happy National Day everyone! Singapore turns 56 today!
The Singapore Premier League is full of twists and turns. Hate it as much as you want but you cannot deny that it is an entertaining competition. Even though there weren’t many goals this time round, this week’s fixtures did produce two shocks – Tanjong Pagar United ending Albirex Niigata’s unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory and Balestier Khalsa clinching a 1-1 draw against the other title-contender, Lion City Sailors.
As usual, you may disagree with my picks but let us know why in our Instagram, FB or website comments section!
Zaiful Nizam [GK]
Against a Lion City Sailors side that possesses a wealth of options upfront, Zaiful Nizam pulled many important saves to deny a goal. It took an injury-time penalty for Sailors to secure a point. Yet, Balestier would be happy with the outcome. Balestier Khalsa went into this knowing that a positive result against a strong side like Sailors would help turn their season around. Zaiful Nizam helped play a major role in securing this important point with his heroics in goal and by inspiring his teammates through his role as captain.
The right-back was phenomenal in keeping the Sailors’ left-wingers at bay. By making important tackles and frustrating the attackers by clearing the ball forward, Fadli Kamis expertly executed Marko Kraljević’s game plan against the Sailors. Balestier Khalsa were always going to play for the draw or look for the perfect opportunity to nick a goal and shut up shop for good. While the penalty probably dampened Fadli’s mood, his performances were truly commendable.
Delwinder Singh returns to our Team of The Week selection after an outstanding defensive showing against Albirex. Even without Kiyoshiro Tsuboi upfront, Albirex have shown that they can bang in the goals from other sources. Yet, Delwinder Singh shut down the White Swans’ attack as part of a remarkable Tanjong Pagar defence. Operating as a left centre-back in a three-man defence, Delwinder also helped support attacking runs. The Jaguars’ vice-captain even hit a thunderous long-range effort that looked to be going in but unfortunately, the ball swerved away from goal just before it reached its target. An overall solid display.
Alongside Delwinder Singh, Shakir Hamzah was also a rock in the back and helped ensure the Tanjong Pagar backline held firm. In fact, it’d be more apt to call Shakir a sentinel as he lunged at opposition players in a bid to win the ball. Some, and possibly many, would call this dangerous play but Shakir is simply a really physical player that players in the local league need to get used to. In many other overseas leagues, Shakir’s physicality is the norm.
The Hougang United central defender bounced back from the Cheetah’s consecutive defeats and put in a commendable performance against Young Lions. Lionel ensured that Hougang United earned a clean sheet by thwarting any Young Lions attack with his physicality and defensive prowess. After all, the defender won 72% of his challenges – demonstrating the consistency of a true defensive dynamo. I still believe he deserves a call-up and if he routinely puts in fine performances, he could possibly feature in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
He may usually play as a left-back but against the Sailors, he was deployed in a more central role. Regardless, he slots in nicely in the left-back spot in this five-man defence. Putting his body on the line repeatedly, Aidil’s fine defensive performances were a huge reason for Balestier Khalsa claiming a critical point. Aidil managed to silence Saifullah Akbar on more than one occasion in the match. Intercepting key passes, blocking shots and heading away threatening crosses, he has a bright future ahead of him.
The Balestier Khalsa man was making significant contributions both in attack and defence. The central midfielder, much like fellow tiger Aidil Johari, threw himself in front of shots to thwart efforts by the Sailors’ attack. Besides perfectly fulfilling his defensive responsibilities as part of the team’s ultra-defensive set-up, Gareth was also responsible for playing some important passes during the initial Balestier attacks.
The engine of the Hougang United midfield once again demonstrated why he is such an instrumental player for the Cheetahs. He does a tremendous job linking the attack and defence. Importantly, he was practically finding himself in important spaces and was able to supply the ball to Doi multiple times. Always reliable, Kaishu earns a spot in this week’s team of the week.
The Tanjong Pagar United hot prospect played the full 90 minutes against Albirex Niigata and he looked excellent on and off the ball. Mind you, this was only his fourth professional appearance ever and he’s already registered two assists. One of those assists came in this fixture. Fathullah darted down the right flank and whipped in a low driven cross to Reo Nishiguchi who executed a brilliant finesse shot. Besides his assist, Fathullah was a constant presence on the pitch and played a massive part in helping Tanjong Pagar secure the win. Jaguars, take note – you have a potential star in the making within your ranks!
The Brazilian forward was brought on during the second half and what a difference-maker he was for the Jaguars. Coming in for Khairul Amri, Junior added some freshness into the Jaguars’ attack. 20 minutes after subbing in, he produced a moment of brilliance that was indeed breathtaking. Capitalizing on Shuya Yamashita’s mistake, the forward sprinted towards the Albirex goal. Seeing Albirex custodian Koga rush towards him, Junior executed a delicious chip. Moments later, he would attempt a similar chip but unfortunately, the woodwork denied him a second stunning goal.
The Japanese hitman was on point for Hougang United, who needed a win to bounce back after two successive defeats. He constantly tested the Young Lions defence with multiple shots. Unfortunately, they were either denied or off-target. When it looked like Hougang were headed for a draw, Shawal Anuar managed to capitalize on a mistake by Young Lions custodian Ridhwan Fikri and passed the ball to Doi. The current SPL topscorer’s shot could have skimmed past the post but it cooly ricocheted off the crossbar and into the back of the net.
And that concludes this team’s team of the week. Blake Ricciuto, Amer Hakeem and Reo Nishiguchi all narrowly missed out on places this week but their performances should not be neglected in the slightest!
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