So finally, Tampines Rovers play their first Singapore Premier League fixture following their AFC Champions League expedition. As a result, we have all eight teams battling it out over the weekend for the first time in months.
It wasn’t just the stags that returned, though, but we also witnessed a goal-fest again after a surprising lack of goals the previous week.
What mouth-watering clashes we had as well. The top four teams battled it out and coincidentally, both fixtures finished 4-1, with Ablirex Niigata and Lion City Sailors claiming victories against Hougang United and Tampines, respectively. Elsewhere, 4-2 was the magic scoreline. Young Lions shocked Balestier Khalsa with a 4-2 thumping while Tanjong Pagad United remarkably overturned a two-goal deficit in their clash against Geylang International to also win 4-2 against the Eagles.
This week was especially hard for me to choose the Team Of The Week because there were many candidates to choose from. Fortunately, I’ve managed to find a team worthy of this week’s team of the week title. Do you agree?
Hassan Sunny – GK
This was a hard one but Hassan narrowly beats Takahiro Koga for this spot because he had to make more saves than the Japanese custodian. Tampines Rovers may have lost 4-1, but they had multiple shots saved by the Sailors custodian. His remarkable diving and cat-like reflexes were once again on display and if I were Tatsuma Yoshida, I’d seriously consider reinstating Hassan as Singapore’s number 1 if he maintains this form.
When was the last time you saw Tajeli play, let alone play right-back? It’s good to see him fielded again. Hopefully, he gets more minutes under his belt. While Taj may have mainly played as a centre-back for the past two to three seasons, he primarily played as a right-back for most of his career. Kim Do Hoon slotted Taj in this role yet again, and boy, did he do well. Armin Bošnjak was in his pocket the whole match and silencing Armin was the main reason Tampines lacked some bite.
Yes, Tanjong Pagar may have conceded two goals in the first half against Geylang International. However, Tanjong Pagar held firm against the Eagles in the second half as they completed their comeback victory. A strong reason for their eventual triumph was Delwinder Singh who managed to snuff out the threat posed by Moresche. Strong, physical, vocal and an inspirational leader on the pitch, Delwinder is forming a solid partnership alongside Shakir Hamzah as the Jaguars look to maintain their good form.
It’s not every day a centre-back scores and it’s even rarer when they score two goals. Well, the Japanese central defender did precisely that when he scored two headers from two corner kicks against Hougang United. While the Cheetahs’ defending was definitely questionable, you have to praise Reo Kunimoto for finding the space and accurately heading the ball into the back of the net. Besides scoring two goals, Kunimoto also made crucial challenges to keep Tomoyuki Doi and the Hougang attack at bay.
I’ve mentioned this before. I guess I’ll discuss it again. You can’t help but admire Shodai Nishikawa’s work ethic. The Japanese left-back was absolutely sensational against Geylang. Notably, he helped score a critical first goal right before the stroke of half-time, which truly changed the tone for Hasrin Jailani and Noh Alam Shah’s halftime team talk. Well done, Shodai. You helped your team in both offence and defence.
Take a bow Takahiro Tezuka. In Kiyoshiro Tsuboi’s absence, I’d have expected the responsibility to produce goals and assists to fall on Ryoya Taniguchi, but Tezuka ishas lately been helping lessen this burden. Against the Cheetahs, the central midfielder’s corners were excellent as they met Reo Kunimoto twice and generated two goals. A late goal not only confirmed victory for the White Swans, but it was honestly icing on the cake for Tezuka, who capped off a brilliant performance in style.
The ever-talented Jacob Mahler was on display for Young Lions against Balestier Khalsa. As usual, he demonstrated why he’s one of Singapore’s brightest prospects once again. A goal in the 30th minute helped his team increase their lead to 2-0 and 11 minutes later, he supplied Khairin Nadim, who made it 3-0. Only 21 years old, Mahler needs to move to an overseas club following the end of his national service. It’s only time before he outgrows the Singapore Premier League.
I genuinely believe that Khairin Nadim has what it takes to be a future star if he is nurtured well. Singapore is experiencing a striker crisis of sorts. We have a lack of traditional number 9s and clinical finishers to bang in the goals. Without Ikhsan Fandi during the World Cup Qualifiers, we looked toothless. Khairin Nadim has the potential to help solve this crisis. His goal against Balestier Khalsa was clinical as you can get. Besides scoring goals, he’s also playing an integral role in build-up play.
After misfiring for weeks, Ilhan Fandi has finally silenced his critics with an impressive performance. The Young Lions forward bagged a brace against Balestier Khalsa. In the 18th minute, he opened the flood gates after capitalizing on some serious miscommunication by the Tigers’ defence. Ilhan would then score again just before the first half concluded to make it 4-0 to the Cubs. The brace takes his tally for the season to 4 goals – the most he’s ever scored at the professional level so far.
This was a difficult one. It was really either Khairul Amri or Luiz Júnior. In the end, I went ahead with the veteran Singaporean forward. Why? Well, Khairul was brought into the free at the 74th minute. 4 minutes later he headed in Tanjong Pagar’s third after a lobbed pass from a Rusyaidi Salime free-kick. In the 90th minute, Júnior sets him up to score Tanjong Pagar’s fourth, which effectively sealed the victory. What an incredible super-sub performance.
The Croatian hitman looked really good against the Stags this game week as he helped engineer Sailors attacks by dropping deep to collect the ball and supply it to his teammates. More importantly, he bagged a brace in their 4-1 victory. With the title race expected to go down to the wire, every goal counts. His double also brings his tally for the season to 13 goals – just a hat trick away from Doi’s 16 goals. Will he reign as the league’s top scorer this season? Only time will tell.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, there were several standout performers this week so I decided to expand the list of players to 6 instead of 3. Šime Žužul, Joel Chew, Shakir Hamzah, Blake Ricciuto, Luiz Júnior and Shahdan Sulaiman feature this time around!
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