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."

Monday, November 24, 2014

AFF Suzuki Cup: Lions marked a heart breaking home debut with a 2-1 loss to Thailand

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Hassan dived correctly but can't stop the Thais' winner
It could not have been a worst possible start for the defending Asean football champions with a defeat in the hands of those they defeated two years ago to clinch that fourth title.

But that twisted fate saw the reversal of the role with Singapore National Team, playing their first full international match in the new National Stadium, ended the night with a heart-breaking loss to Thailand on a 2-1 scoreline.

A general consensus from several sectors concluded a draw would be a fair result for both, while some opinions suggested the War Elephants looked relatively raw and inexperienced (since a large part of the team are elevated from the recent Incheon Asian Games squad).

A pretty even first half saw a keenly contested affair from both sides with some intensify attacking plays that saw the visitors pulled the first trigger in the ninth minute with a Prakit Deeprom's strike that riveted past Hassan Sunny but it wasn't that long following some pilling up before the home supporters had something to cheer about.

Amri maintains his fine record against Thailand
Shahril Ishak (right) threaded a ball through with this lob
Pacing his way on his usual left flank saw Shaiful Esah whipped a ball across into the box that saw striker Khairul Amri timed his jump well to connect with a diving header to ignite a wild celebration among the 32,000 fans in the arena.

It was the score that remained that way, despite having the Thais being the more dominant side in the second half after Lions' coach Bernd Stange decided that replacing lynchpin Baihakki Khaizan at half time is something of an essentiality with the Johor-bound defender already on a yellow card.

The deemed necessity eventually saw holding midfielder Hariss Harun partnering Safuwan Baharudin in the center-back pairing that slotted in Zulfahmi Arifin in middle of the field with Shahdan Sulaiman.

Faris Ramli (11) gained advantage in this play
Hariss (right) shifted to centerback in second half
Lions' defence held the Thais at bay till the penalty
Barring a few nervy moments, the makeshift backline were able to cope with the Thais' onslaught until Safuwan was adjudged to have committed a handball offence in the box in 88th to allow Swiss-born Charyl Yannic Chappius to score the all-important winning goal from the spot a minute later, in spite protests from the home team and the partisan crowds.

"It was a difficult game, since Singapore are four-time champions (of this tournament),"said Thailand's coach Kiatisuk Senamuang in the post-match press conference.

"We were trying to get a least a point from this game, but I think we are lucky to get all three points in the 'Group of Death' and I would like to thank the players for working hard, it is also a good experience for them with many of whom played in the recent Asian Games." added the former SAFFC striker nicknamed "Zico" by the adoring Thai public.

Thailand's coach Kiatisuk Senamuang 
Having finally experienced what is "Kallang Roar" for the first time, a visibly disappointed Singapore coach Bernd Stange opined a draw would be a fair outcome.

Speaking to the media after the match, the German tactician said:"It was a good intense game, but we were very unlucky that I felt we deserved a draw."

"Now the pressure would be higher for us (to qualify for the next phrase) and I don't want any luck, what I want is performance from the team who missed some clear chances to get the second goal that I was expecting a little bit more from, but that's football and you can't change anything."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

AFF Suzuki Cup - Stange:"Home Advantage Pressures Away Team To Spur Us on"

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Singapore's coach Bernd Stange
Speaking ahead of their AFF Suzuki Cup opener against Thailand tomorrow at the National Stadium, Singapore National Coach Bernd Stange maintained his usual confidence at the joint pre-match press conference at M Hotel.

"I believe we are well prepared to show that we are the top team since we are hosting the tournament," said the German coach.

"With expecting crowds of thirty, forty thousands behind us, this is always an advantage to any home team because they added pressure to the away team and motivate the (home) players to do well just like anywhere in the world."

Only Thailand (far right) was not represented by their head coach
Despite last minute changes that saw the Lions not able to conduct their final training at the pristine Kallang surface prior to the opener, the former Belarus national coach is least worried for the lack of familiarization.

Explained Coach Stange:"This is not the first time the players play on the surface, as some of them played for the Singapore Selection (against Juventus in August),

"(Friendly results versus Cambodia and Laos) meant nothing, as we are absolutely focused for the game against Thailand, as it is a big big battle for this match."

"We need to strike a good balance by playing safe and attacking football against Thailand, it's extremely important for us to deliver the result and I am optimistic about this."

Met some of the Lions posed for this shot - "SMILE..."
Despite not being one of those featured in that August match against the Bianconeri and be probably starting his first game on the much-criticized surface, defender Ismadi Mukhtar shared the same sentiments as his coach.

Sharing his thoughts after the team's training session at the Jurong West Stadium, the 31-year-old said:"I don't focus much on things that are not relevant to the game (i.e.: the National Stadium field) but chose to stay focused on the match itself,

Ismadi hopes to inspire
"So far, I have been coping well with the team and it's not much different to what I am doing at my club (Tampines Rovers), so I know what to do and it's a personal achievement for me (to play for the national team) that given my age, I hope I can work hard to inspire my younger teammates." added the newly-capped Lions when begin asked of his thoughts and role that might differ from that at club.

In the meantime, the final squad of the 22 for the tournament was made known around this noon, as follows.

THE FINAL 22

S/NO FULL NAME POSITION AGE CAPS GOALS CLUB
1 MOHAMAD IZWAN BIN MAHBUD GK 24 27 0 LIONSXII
2 HASSAN BIN ABDULLAH SUNNY GK 30 45 0 WARRIORS FC
3 MUHAMMAD AL QAASIMY BIN ABDUL RAHMAN DF 22 5 0 COURTS YOUNG LIONS
4 BAIHAKKI BIN KHAIZAN DF 30 111 4 LIONSXII
5 MOHAMAD SHAIFUL BIN ESAH NAIN DF 28 40 2 TAMPINES ROVERS
6 ISMADI BIN MUKHTAR DF 31 4 0 TAMPINES ROVERS
7 MOHAMMAD AFIQ BIN YUNOS DF 24 6 0 LIONSXII
8 MUHAMMAD AMIRUL ADLI BIN AZMI DF 18 3 0 COURTS YOUNG LIONS
9 MUHAMMAD SAFUWAN BIN BAHARUDIN DF 23 40 2 LIONSXII
10 MUHAMMAD SHAKIR BIN HAMZAH DF 22 10 0 LIONSXII
11 MUHAMMAD HAFIZ BIN ABU SUJAD MF 24 12 0 LIONSXII
12 HARISS S/O HARUN MF 24 45 1 JOHOR DARUL TAKZIM 1
13 MUHAMMAD ZULFAHMI BIN MOHD ARIFIN MF 23 10 0 LIONSXII
14 SHAHDAN BIN SULAIMAN MF 26 40 2 TAMPINES ROVERS
15 MUHAMMAD FARIS BIN RAMLI MF 22 10 1 LIONSXII
16 MOHAMMAD SHAHRIL BIN ISHAK MF 29 117 13 JOHOR DARUL TAKZIM 2
17 GABRIEL QUAK JUN YI MF 24 7 2 LIONSXII
18 MUHAMMAD SHAHFIQ BIN GHANI FW 22 17 2 LIONSXII
19 MOHAMMAD KHAIRUL AMRI BIN MOHAMMAD KAMAL FW 29 89 23 LIONSXII
20 MOHAMAD SAHIL BIN SUHAIMI FW 23 8 0 COURTS YOUNG LIONS
21 MUHAMMAD KHAIRUL NIZAM BIN MOHAMMAD KAMAL FW 23 8 0 LIONSXII
22 FAZRUL BIN NAWAZ FW 29 68 6 HOME UNITED

Sunday, November 16, 2014

[CASTLEWOODS LIVERPOOL MASTERS] Reds' triumph on a wet wet night at JBS

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Rafi Ali close checked on "Macca"
A trip down to the Jalan Besar Stadium last evening sets apart from those previous ones.

It was because the showpiece last night, literally brought me back to my formative years when catching football action on television was a norm then (not much in these recent years).

Suddenly, the likes of Ian Rush, Steve McManaman, Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy whom I used to catch in action on television appeared right in front of me to showcase what they were during their heydays and for Robbie Fowler, himself, could sort of making up for his non-appearance on the same arena when he first came to Singapore in 2009 with the now-defunct A-League side North Queensland Fury.

Liverpool legend Ian Rush (left) don an "Aleks T-shirt"
The match was almost derailed before the scheduled kickoff time at 7pm due to the persistent rain and eventually went ahead in drizzling after the deactivation of the Light Warning System (LWS).

Another significant occasion was also celebrated as local hero Aleksandar Duric's testimonial match with players spotted donning warming kit that bears the 44-year-old's face in front.

While they may not longer packed the pace and intensity during their prime, but every move and pass made was greeted with applauds irregardless of which side.

Emile Heskey (middle) scored the opener
Tong Hai cleared the aerial threat
"Dazzler" V Sundramoorthy ready to launch a rocket
Although the crowds did roar in approval while Emile Heskey opened the account in the ninth minute before the ghosts of the 1993's SEA Games came back to haunt defender Lim Tong Hai in the 17th minute to be at the wrong place and time to gift the visitors the second goal.

Finnish Jari Litmanen topped the tally with the Reds' third goal of the night shortly after the restart in this 80-minute fixture in the 46th minute before Rafi Ali's header in the 63rd minute salvaged some pride for the locals against an impressive Jerzy Dudek, a cult figure in the Anfield folklore for his heroics in the 2005 Champions League victory.

The thrill to snap your boyhood hero with your lenses
"Pocket Dynamo" Malek Awab in action 
"WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS"
As the drizzle turned light at the end of the night, the Liverpool Masters walked away with a 3-1 win over the Singapore Masters with adoring fans patiently camping outside the stadium eager to grab a snapshot and autography from those who featured on the wet slippery surface.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

[CASTLEWOODS LIVERPOOL MASTERS] PRE MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE

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(L-R) Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler
Earlier in the day, the pre-match press conference for the Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters was at The Westin.

Following the success of last year's Masters Event held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, local-based commercial real estate developer - Castlewood Group had decided to back the event for the second time on a roll with an array of stars from the yesterdays that featuring household names of both Liverpool Football Club and Singapore national football team in a friendly match to be played this coming Saturday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

(L-R) Aleksandar Duric and Aide Iskandar
In attendance at the said press conference were former Liverpool idols Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman alongside with ex-Lions skipper Aide Iskandar and recently retired Aleksandar Duric together with Chris Comer, CEO of Castlewood Group (pictured below third from left) and event organizer Steve Black, CEO of Masters Football Asia (picture below third from right).

Returning for the event for the second year in running, Fowler, nicknamed "The God" by the Reds faithful, said:“Masters Football Asia always put together a great event, and together with Castlewood they ensure that we are well-looked after. As players, when we are looked after, it makes a great thing and we always want to come back. Of course with Liverpool's support and the Singapore fans, we always want to come back. We travelled around the world and everywhere we go we do get so much support, passion and drive from fans, we are really very thankful for them."

The panellists for the group photo at the end of session
While Fowler has been a regular visitor in the region in recent years due to his various past commitments, this would be McManaman's first appearance in this series and the former Real Madrid star is happy to be in Singapore and to catch up with some of his old mates like Patrik Berger, Ian Rush, etc.

“It's wonderful to see the Premier League as a whole is huge in the far east region so whether we are in Thailand or in Singapore, Jakarta or Malaysia, we always get so much support. It's always great to be here, great to see everybody and I know it will be a wonderful occasion, particularly on Saturday!” said McManaman.

The Duric brothers 
As for the local front will see Duric being honoured in the same match as a testimonial for the 44-year-old naturalized Singaporean and, more significantly, the match will also be witnessed by his brother whom both have not meet to close a decade.

"This is probably the first and last time my brother see me playing as a player." said the 53-capped former Singapore striker.

According to the organizers, tickets of the match are fast selling out with more than 90% sold and fans can still make their purchase at Tickebooth (http://www.ticketbooth.com.sg/).

MATCH DETAILS
  • Match: Liverpool Masters vs Singapore Masters
  • Date: 15th November 2014
  • Kick-Off: 7.00pm
(Quotes of both Fowler and McManaman extracted from the media release issued shortly after the event by the organizers)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

[Singapore Cup] Tigers broke the "Domination" with an emphatic 3-1 win over Home United

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Zaiful (yellow jersey) dominated the play in his box
Just like how he did in the semifinals that aided Balestier Khalsa to the RHB Singapore Cup final after knocked out Tampines Rovers on penalties, custodian Zaiful Nizam is the Tigers' star of the night again.

The former Lion City Cupper put up another stellar performance for the Toa Payoh-based club in front of 6,000 at the Jalan Besar Stadium to beat defending holders Home United 3-1 to clinch the side's second honour for the consecutive season (Balestier were the League Cup winners last year).

Staying true in the spirit of any Cup fixture, the designated home side did not sit back to allow their neighbors across Braddell Road to take any advantage of having a more potent frontline that would win any game on their day.

Sadly though, the night did not belong to the Protectors who were left frustrated for much of the game, not just because of Zaiful's heroics, but also due to the well-marshalled backline led by Emir Lotinac in the absence of Kiwi Paul Cunningham.

Goran Ljubojevic heads a clearance
With the two-goal lead (Goran Ljubojevic in the 14th minute, which was followed by Kim Min Ho's successfully converted from the spot in the 27th minute) before the interval, Balestier were right on track as predicted by coach Marko Kraljevic who claimed the artificial turf has always allowed his men to play well this season.

When the play resumed in the second half, the Protectors turned their heat on to the Tigers' backline by dominating much of the action in the latter half, which they knew it too well that three-goal advantage would be a much safer cushion that eventually arrived in the 89th minute through Park Kang Jin amid the shredded defence in the Home's box.

It was from another spot-kick in the stoppage that allowed the deficit to be reduced when Sirina Camara placed the ball to Zaiful's left to pull one back before referee Muhd Taqi Jahari signalled the end of the proceedings.

Home (red) suggested in Tigers' box
Came on as a substitute in the second half, Jonathan Xu relished the moment of collecting his second Cup winners' medal (he picked up his first medal back in 2009 with Geylang United).

Said the former Tanjong Pagar United defender:"Every final is very different and it's something special, and I felt that we pressed Home United right from the start and I attributed this victory to the tremendous team spirit we have that is something unbelievable."

Meanwhile, "Man-of-The-Match" Zaiful dedicated the accolade to his wife and his to-be-born baby

"In this game, it's the desire we want to win the Cup and this match against a big team like Home United is something like a derby match for us and I would also like to dedicate this (Man-of-The-Match) award to my wife and my baby, who is due in December."

Jonathan Xu holds the Cup for the second time 
Having won the ticket to next season's AFC Cup tournament, it's undoubtedly every player's dream to play in the continental's second-tier club tournament that had only seen the likes of Tampines Rovers, Home United and Warriors (as SAFFC) represented the Republic in the recent years.

Thus the burning question would be how is the club getting ready for the challenge?

"Let us savour this victory at this moment," said Balestier's chairman Mr S Thavaneson when the question was posed to him by this blogger.

"To participate in this tournament (AFC Cup), it requires a big financial funding on top of having to field a strong team and I think we will discuss this issue in days to come."

The Tigers collected the Cup from President Tony Tan
Nonetheless, it was a significant monent for the club, as pointed by the veteran club administratror.

"It's very significant for us to win the Cup because we are one of the founding members of the S.League and also one of the senior teams since the semi-professional days,

"I believed we deserved this victory because everyone in the club, the players, the coaches, the fans worked very hard for it and also because I was confident of the tactic that was well executed which many would expect us to 'park the bus' for this match."

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