Gear up folks, we’re in for a nail-biting finish. The conclusion of last week’s fixtures means that 4 games remain for the majority of the teams, while Lion City Sailors and Tampines Rovers have five games remaining each. Matchday 17 certainly produced thrilling matches with Lion City Sailors and Hougang United battling it out in a game that ended 1-1. The draw means that Sailors are 5 points adrift league leaders Albirex while Hougang secured a spot in next season’s AFC Cup. Elsewhere, Albirex dominated Balestier Khalsa and crushed the Tigers with a 4-0 defeat. Young Lions, meanwhile, came from behind to claim a 3-2 victory over the Eagles. Finally, ending the weekend was the fixture between Tampines Rovers and Tanjong Pagar United. The fixture was a tense one for both clubs and wild challenges flew in from both sides. A win for either side would have helped their chances of finishing in the remaining AFC Cup spot. Clearly, both had a lot at stake here. However, the Stags and the Jagaurs had to share the spoils as the match ended 2-2.
After yet another thrilling weekend, these are the eleven who make the cut for our Team Of The Week.
While Izwan Mahbud also pulled off some amazing saves to deny Sailors from clinching an important victory, Zharfan Rohaizad was on fire against Tampines Rovers. In the second half, he made several critical saves to single-handedly deny Tampines Rovers victory. It is remarkable how Zharfan has cemented his place in the squad since joining the club in the mid-season.
Shahkir Hamzah is truly a rock in the back for the Tanjong Pagar defence and while Tampines Rovers may have scored two goals against the Jaguars, Shahkir’s no-nonsense defending and aggressive tackles prevented the Stags from adding a third. He also helped Tanjong Pagar equalize in the 28th minute. After awful defending by the Stags, Shahkir managed to scoop the ball into the net. An overall decent performance, Tanjong Pagar United have truly turned their season around with Shahkir at the back.
Lionel Tan made it difficult for the Lion City Sailors frontline as he and his defensive partners regularly closed down attacks and narrowed the field of play for the opposition. More often than not, the Sailors were forced to take shots from outside of the box and Lionel Tan played a key role in congesting the penalty box. It took a moment of brilliance from Hafiz Nor to beat the defence but Hougang managed to hold on and that’s largely due to the cohesiveness at the back.
Anders Aplin was part of the cohesive backline that held firm against the ever-threatening Sailors. However, it was the 50th-minute goal that was probably an even bigger contribution. From a freekick, Kaishu Yamazaki pumped the ball into the penalty box and Anders Aplin rose to head the ball past Hassan Sunny. of course, some might argue that he was offside but we have no VAR in Singapore and whether you agree with it or not, the goal stands. The goal certainly helped instil confidence in the team and spurred them on.
The prolific pacey winger was brought on the 71st minute by Kim Do Hoon and he almost instantly made his mark. Just three minutes later, Hafiz Nor turned on the afterburners. Picking up the ball from a Jorge Fellipe pass in the middle of the park, Hafiz first took on Kaishu Yamazaki and beat the Japanese engine with a clever bit of play. Then he managed to elude Anders Aplin with twists and turns before whipping the ball in for Stipe Plazibat to easily nod the ball into the back of the net.
Coming off the bench yet again, Kondo has established himself as one of the league’s best-ever super subs. Coming on at the start of the second half, Kondo wasted no time and his 47th-minute cross found Ryoya Taniguchi who converted his chance. Minutes later Taniguchi returned the favour by setting Kondo up to drill the ball past Riki Kimura. In the 64th minute, Kondo demonstrated his shooting prowess with a ferocious finesse shot from outside the penalty box. Following his brace against Balestier, he’s made it 7 goals and 4 assists in 12 games. As a substitute, he’s scored 6 goals and made 2 assists – a truly impressive return.
Yasir Hanapi had a solid game against Tanjong Pagar United. The Tampines Rovers captain helped Tampines get off the mark with a brilliant cross, which found Irfan Najeeb near the far post. Irfan cooly headed the ball past Zharfan Rohaizad but it was good to see Tampines go in front for the first time since their return to SPL action. Yasir would then lay off the ball for Marc Ryan Tan in the 35th minute for Tampines’s second goal.
Marc Ryan Tan
Finding acres of space down the right flank, Marc Ryan Tan illustrated how far he has progressed since moving from Young Lions at the beginning of the season. It always seemed like Marc was going to score in this game as there was an air of confidence surrounding him. Then in the 35th minute, it happened. Kyoga’s low driven pass found Yasir Hanapi who immediately switched its trajectory to Marc Ryan Tan who was in the right place at right time. Marc duly converted – and what a finish it was!
The Japanese ace was deployed as a forward against Balestier Khalsa and he flourished in his forward role. Testing Riki Kimura occasionally in the first half, Taniguchi managed to find the back of the net after connecting with Kuraba Kondo’s cross in the 47th minute. He would later assist Kondo four minutes later to double ALbirex’s lead and round up the evening with a second goal and Albirex’s fourth. Chasing a wayward back pass to Riki Kimura, Taniguchi punished the Balestier custodian for not handling the pressure. He has once again stepped up to the plate in Kiyoshiro Tsuboi’s absence.
Many have criticised the forward’s inclusion for the centralized national team training sessions during the international break but perhaps, that fueled Ilhan as he had a hand in all three goals. He drew the foul to earn his side an early penalty and later would bag a brace against Geylang International. It was his celebration that mostly got the attention however as taunts from the Geylang Ultras clearly wounded him up as he celebrated by flapping his arms as if to mock the Eagles.
Amy Recha was a constant nuisance for Young Lions and he immediately responded to the Eagles conceding a goal. With expert control, Amy brilliantly chested down Yuki Ichikawa’s lobbed through ball to volley it past Ridhwan Fikri. Amy would later also assist Moresche as the maverick dribbler whizzed past to score Geylang’s second goal. He could have been the hero but he missed a chance to equalize late on. Nevertheless, Amy is now the top local scorer of the Singapore Premier League and the first Singaporean to reach double digits this season. Can he add more to his best-ever tally for a season? I genuinely think so.
The Singapore Premier League was back in action this past weekend and the “weekend” kicked off on Thursday where Balestier Khalsa took on Tampines Rovers who were looking to bounce back from their 4-1 thumping by Lion City Sailors. Unfortunately for the Stags, they slumped to another heavy defeat again – this time a shock […]
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