For The Record...
"In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Zainudin (Nordin, FAS President) reiterated that the S-league will not become a "poorer cousin" once the LionsXII start their Malaysia Cup campaign."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fiery Misery Ended Stags' Season 2015 ...

Referee Muhd Taqi (right) sticking close to action 
The night ended in a misery for Tampines Rovers for not only unable to clinch the S.League title as a farewell gift for their long-serving former chairman and benefactor - Mr Teo Hock Seng but also saw the one-all draw against Harimau Muda ended in an undesirable manner when two of their players were accounted for the three marching orders flashed out by referee Muhd Taqi.

Prior to the start of the match at Jurong West, the equation was simple - the Stags, for having trailing large part of the season behind eventual winners Brunei DPMM, need to beat Malaysian developmental squad by two clear goals while hoping Balestier Khalsa could repeat another giant-killing act by defeat the Wasps at home to ensure the fifteen-kilogram silverware remain in the Republic (although the league authority had it flown to Brunei, as reported in the papers).

Referee Taqi flashed his first red in the 35th minute to Isa Halim
Mateo Roskam (left) engaged in an aerial battle
With much tension at stake one could see how the Stags felt the brunt of it when they conceded an early goal in seventh minute when a soft effort by Ariff Farhan gave the visitors the surprise lead in the match that was televised live.

Soon after which the match turned pretty physical that any spark could trigger any form of free-for-all that would put the match officials under intense pressure to keep things in order which also meant the use of red card to serve as a form of deterrent like midfield anchorman Isa Halim was the first of the book when he shown straight red on his face for the violent conduct in the 35th minute.

Harimau Muda protested the spot-kick decision in the 55th minute
Rodrigo Tosi battled out for the possession 
However, that did not ensure the game any trouble free with referee Taqi had to be firm in his decision (like how he awarded the penalty in the 55th minute that led to the equalizer by Tampines in spite of the vehemently protest by the Harimau Muda players) and swift to get in between to break up any sort of confrontation during the match with tempers flared momentarily throughout the match resulted defender Kenny Pallraj collected his second yellow in the 82nd minute to head for the early shower.

"Along" was given the marching order barely seconds onto the field
But none of that can be compared to the third shown by the reigning referee of the year when he had to reach for his pocket to give veteran striker Noh Alam Shah, who only came in barely seconds to replace Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, for making a violent charge at the Harimau Muda custodian Ilham Amirullah inside the box.

That harsh act witnessed a bust-up that the former national striker had to be restrained by a group of his team-mates before ushered to the dressing room for that near five minute of standoff.

Friday, November 13, 2015

[WCQ2018] Stange: "It was a CORRECT RESULT"

Izwan Mahbud in agony as Southampton's Yoshida (22) celebrates
Everything went according to the script when Japan chalked up a 3-0 win over Singapore at the National Stadium last evening.

The result not only allowed the Blue Samurais to hold onto the top position in the AFC World Cup Qualifiers Group E standings but as a sort of revenge for that goal-less draw played in Saitama back in June as well.

The visitors wasted little time when the match kicked off at an usual timing at 7.15pm by setting up camp in their hosts' territory that basically crippled any chances of the Lions making their way out of their half.

Keisuke Honda (left) in disbelief of another screwed chance
So it wasn't that surprise to see the Japanese broke the duck in the 20th minute when Kashima Antlers' midefielder Mu Kanazaki sealed it off with sheer precision after controlled the ball well following a nice laid-off by Yoshinori Muto, who was at the receiving end of the cross floated in by Keisuke Honda from the right, in the box.

Soon afterwards, it was the 29-year-old AC Milan striker who doubled the tally in the 26th minute with a textbook finishing, thanks to another laid-off a stone throw away by Muto within the perspective that deflected off the boot of Nazrul Nazari along the process.

Hafiz Sujad (16) tried to whizz past from the left
Safuwan Baharudin (21) won the aerial duel
It was by then a clear indication that the Republic wouldn't want to see themselves incurred any huge margin hence saw they defended in numbers to absorb any pressure from their much potent opponents as the best option in this fixture.

Nonetheless, that sheer determination to maintain the scoreline to that decent margin could only be hold till the 87th when Maya Yoshida's innocent looking tap made it 3-0 from close range to close the chapter for the night.

Fazrul Nawaz (10) found in tough going when defend was the priority
"I am happy for the victory," said Japan coach Vahid Halilhodžić after the match. "We created many chances today while playing on a pitch that was difficult to control the ball that unfortunately we can't score more goals.

"In the second half, Singapore used a lot of counter-attacks, set pieces when our defence discipline were not at their best to create chances for themselves but we are not underestimating them when we didn't win anything yet while we are still fighting for the qualification." added the former Côte d'Ivoire and Algeria coach.

"Datuk" Hariss Harun sticking close to Honda 
Crowd favourite Shinji Kagawa (10) started the game in second half 
Despite the shutout, Singapore coach Bernd Stange wasn't unhappy with his team's performance when taking his seat in the post-match media conference.

Said the German coach:"It was a correct result for Japan who won it comfortably and took a successful revenge for that goal-less result in June."

"Back then, many of their players had just finished their season in Europe and it was an off-season for them, as compared to now when some of them are playing in top level competitions like the Champions League."

"To play against a team like Japan, we must defend and with more international matches like this, we can only confirm (gauge) our players and it shows we don't have enough players with this experience but I still believe we can qualify for the Asian Cup."

Friday, November 06, 2015

Stags Screwed Up ...

Coach Sundram (right) looked away as Tigers celebrate
For some reasons, there is a saying - not to be on the losing side of the final home match of your season, even at the expenses of a close friend of yours and the 4-3 win by Balestier Khalsa over title-contenders Tampines Rovers proven the theory.

Prior to the match at the Toa Payoh Stadium, the home ground of the Tigers, things were looking up for the visiting Stags who were looking nothing less than maximum points to narrow the gap between league leaders Brunei DPMM and themselves, especially when the men from the sultanate were upset by Geylang International two days ago.

Pacheco was having a bad day in office
However, Tigers’ coach Marko Kraljevic had to put aside any thoughts of cordialness for that ninety minutes and had his counterpart and close friend V Sundram Moorthy left the ground on a heavy heart when the former national striker is to resume his role as one of the assistants to national coach Bernd Stange for the upcoming Lions commitments.

The loss not only pushed Tampines to fourth spot on the ladder and are now five points adrift from the Bruneians with only one game in hand to their advantage.

Two close-range efforts at the early part of the game set the momentum that placed Balestier on the driving position when Zulkiffli Hassim and Igor Cerina pencilled their names on the scoresheet.

Stags' Ismail Yunos got ahead of "Iggy" Ang of Tigers
Little much could Tampines ‘keeper Rodrigo Pacheco do when he could parried the ball softly to allow Zulkiffli to tap home to an empty net in the eighth and saw Croatian Cerina squeezed in the second amid a mad scrabble in the goal-mouth in the 19th minute.

But a goal five minutes before the break ensured the deficit was cut to one and calmed the Stags with the header from former DPMM striker Rodrigo Tosi.

While the visitors dominated much the possession in the second half, it didn’t translate to the goals they badly needed just like their last match against the Warriors that ended goal-less.

Cerina (left) tussle with Mateo Roskam
Miroslav Kristic’s goal in the 73rd minute restored the two-goal deficit to make it an uphill task for Tampines to keep things within pace, although Mateo Roskam’s 81st minute did give a glimpse of hope for the five-time league winners.

The game was eventually rounded up with two late penalties awarded to each side in the last two minutes of the regular time with both Kristic and Tosi made no mistake from the spot to call it a day.

“It was a really good performance and we played beautiful,” said Coach Kraljevic in his post-match interview.

“The game plan was to push and pressure forward using the same 4-4-2 formation to create some chances in the game.” he added.

Jonathan Xu (red) and Ismadi Mukhtar (2) outwit each other
Meanwhile, Coach Sundram shared the opinion that the first two goals they conceded early might be the turning point when he said:“When we keep conceded soft goals like the first two, we will be the ones kept chasing the game.”

“And I am not surprised the way Balestier played as they are a group of fighters, it just that I don’t think we started the game well but if tomorrow Warriors can beat DPMM, we are back again (in the title race).”

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Eagles did just right to help their "neighbours" ...

Bruno celebrates after scoring in 58th minute
It is a massive win that could change the Great Eastern - Yeo's S.League title race completely with this 2-1 upset at Bedok this evening.

Putting aside the win that lifted Geylang International from the foot of the league table, the considerable damage had inflicted on leaders Brunei DPMM who may still leading the pack with five points clear of their nearest rivals Tampines Rovers.

But with the second-placed Stags having played two games less than the sultanate's men, the ball will be at the V Sundram moorthy's charges to tap on the chance to reduce the deficit after their goal-less stalemate a day earlier against Warriors FC.

Ramozotti (left) opened the account in 28th minute
So straight from the start, the Bruneians stated their intention clear by pressing the Eagles right at their doorsteps that ruffled a few feathers on a few occasions by notching up a few dead-ball opportunities at the edge of the box.

Yet, none of those free-kicks yielded any dividend that Brazilian striker Rafeal Ramazotti had to chip over a surging and stretched Yazid Yasin to open the account on the 28th minute.

Kento Fukuda (center) clears the danger
Unfortunately, the Wasps failed to add a few more despite dominated much of the possession before their hosts took charge of the proceedings after the interval.

Winger Hafiz Nor levelled the scores barely seconds following the resuming of the match when he whizzed from the right to plant the ball at the back of the net.

The porous defence were the culprits again in the 58th minute to allow Bruno Castanheira to score the match-winning goal which did not see the Eagles sat back to defend their slender lead from there onwards, as coach Jorg Steinebrunner's plan was to maintain the offensive mode which he explained during the post-match briefing with the press.

Joe Gamble (10) met some resistance
Said the German coach:"Attack is always the best defence when it was too early to close shop after 65 minutes of play,

"In the first half, we attacked well but unfortunately DPMM scored first even though I felt it should be offside. But overall it was a good performance and the three points are massive reward for our efforts, commitments shown in the game."

When asked if the result could be instrumental in keeping the league title trophy in the Republic, the former defender replied:"It will always be the best team who will win it."

Boris Raspudic (15) made sure he got it first
Meanwhile, it took quite a while before DPMM's coach Steve Kean emerged from the tunnel to share his thoughts to the waiting media.

"It should be two, three goals in the first half with the lapse of concentration in the second half when we switched off early." opined the ex-Blackburn Rovers boss.

"We are very disappointed when we don't have much attacking options with the opponents tried to minimize our attacks but we still have two more games where we hope to improve our performance." he added.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

[WCQ2018] Toothless Lions should have done better in 2-1 win over Cambodia

Lions (red) failed to capitalize the possession
Honestly, things were looking bright from the start before the lack of bite in front of goal saw Singapore walked away with a narrow 2-1 win over Cambodia in the joint World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers played at Kallang last evening.

Several changes were made in this fixture with the notable absentees from the Lions' start list such as Shahril Ishak, Fazrul Nawaz, etc. making way for the returning of Hariss Harun (as skipper), Safuwan Baharudin from suspension alongside the introduction of Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi in the starting eleven.

Hariss Harun (left) was named as skipper at the start
Safuwan Baharudin (21) played in advancing position
The transformation from the lacklustre outing against Afghanistan was clearly for all to see with the Lions showing more fluency in their offenses by placing Safuwan in an more advancing position while maintaining the backline duo of Baihakki Khaizan and Madhu Mohana.

However, the domination of the game didn't result any early goal until the 16th minute when winger Faris Ramli sneaked in to claim the first blood in 16th minute.

The Republic would have doubled the lead minutes before the break but only to see Khairul Amri's effort palmed away by the Khmers' custodian from the spot.

While it was a lifeline for the visitors but not so for the home side to see the Lions XII striker stretchered out due to hamstring injury.

Khairul Amri (front) pulled his hamstring after this penalty attempt
As a natural replacement, in came Fazrul to take the role vacated by Amri at the start of the second half which took only three minutes for the Warriors FC's star to prove his role as a goal poacher with his strike in the 48th minute.

The promising start after the interval, however, failed to shackle the floodgates many in the 9,417 wanted to see, despite the continuing possession enjoyed by the men in red throughout the evening.

Things were left in tender hooks when Cambodia reduced the deficit in the 66th minute through Sos Suhana from close range.

That tells the different of having a goal and a two-goal difference after that slip-up at the Lions' backline which motivated the Cambodians to press forward but failed to grab that elusive equalizer.

Fazrul Nawaz (right) drifted back in wing after he scored
So one could image the breathe of relief exhaled by Lions' Coach Bernd Stange at the end of the match following a five-minute of injury time added on.

"We have achieved ten points (after four matches) we targeted for and I see this as something positive." addressed the German coach in his media meet-up in which he also paid tribute to the players, backroom staff and the fans for tonight's win.

"While I understand there will be pressure from the media and the fans after this win, but that would be my job to take those pressure so as to allow the players to play their game and it will be extremely difficult to play our next two games against both Japan and Syria that we have to play much better than our past few games." he continued amid a sense of continuing scepticism felt in the press conference.


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