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."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

[Singapore Cup] - Tampines Rovers STRETCHED To The Final ...

Tampines faced an aggressive opponents in Ceres (black)
Tampines Rovers knew that something wasn't quite right when they took on UFL side Ceres La Salle in the returning leg of their RHB Singapore Cup semi-final fixture at the Jalan Besar Stadium last evening.

The Stags were a depleted side with several notable absentees like skipper Fahrudin Mustafic (suspension), Fazrul Nawaz (injury), etc. thus taking on an aggressive side like Ceres would meant to see both their mental and physical strength being put a test right from the start.

Encounters like this were common occurrences 
Which was eventually the case when the team from Bacolod raided the designated away side with sheer aggressiveness that barely allowed the latter any freedom to roam around.

Not less than three times in a space of fifteenth minutes since the kickoff saw Ceres being awarded free kicks from the edge of the box after Azkal international Patrick Reichelt effectively forced Tampines committed those fouls to their advantage.

Ismadi Mukhtar kept Stephan Schrock (11) checked 
None of those attempts, however, did any damage to the AFC Cup quarter-finalists who managed to steer clear of any danger posed to them until the 45th minute when Ceres put one up before the interval via another Filipino international Stephan Schrock from the spot after referee Muhd Taqi ruled defender Jufri Taha was guilty for a yellow card offence in the box that will rule him out of the final.

That sucker punch did not derail the fighting spirit of Tampines who appeared to be more composed and organized in the second half and was duly awarded for their effort in the 57th minute.

Lions defender Hafiz Abu Sujad was at the receiving end of a Billy Mehmet pass before unleashed a volley from close range to give the Stags a 3-2 lead on aggregate.

Hafiz Sujad (right) scored for Tampines 
But the men-in-yellow did not follow much from there onwards, as they found it hard to break down a resilient Ceres backline marshalled by their Korean skipper Kim Sang Ming.

As the result, the game was forced into extra time after the 78th minute effort by the industrious Reichelt to make it 2-1 to level the overall score 3-3.

Nonetheless, all those efforts were futile as Tampines are determined to keep things in shape when goals in each half of extra time from Afiq Yunos (in the 105th minute) and Saifullah Akbar (112th) propelled them to their first Singapore Cup final since 2012 when they were runners-up to SAFFC (now Warriors FC) on 5-3 aggregate.

Stags thank their fans after the win
Already have their hands tied with the ongoing S.League title chase and their upcoming continental commitments, Stags head coach Akbar Nawaz reaffirmed his "one-game-at-a-time" policy after the match.

Said the bespectacled coach:"It's difficult for us to set any priority now and I felt that taking 'one game at a time' works for us.

"Hopefully, after the break that comes by we will have our players available for us (for the remaining of the season)."

Monday, July 18, 2016

[TNP League Cup] - Deeper Stags Clinched The Semis Berth

Veteran Noh (center) shown who is the boss in the match
I thought it more or less tells it all when Tampines Rovers' skipper Noh Rahman did well to contain someone fifteenth year old younger than him in The New Paper League Cup Group A fixture against Warriors FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Croatian youngster Marijan Suto found himself in a fix for his inability to get pass the 35-year-old former Singapore international and things couldn't be more worse off when the 20-year-old striker was largely an isolated figure upfront.

In a first half with little much to cheer about and many would thought it would be a goal-less affair before the interval, a freak opener by former Irish Republic youth international Billy Mehmet opened the account for the Stags moments before referee Jansen Foo signalled for the break.

Fabian Kwok (right) in an aerial duel 
An uncharacteristic blooper by Warriors' custodian Basil Chan saw the ball fumbled into the goal much to the astonishing of those at the ground but Ismail Yunos was there at the first instance to give a consolation pat on the back of the former Young Lions 'keeper while heading back to the dressing room.

In spite of having seven players away on national duty as compared to only two in the Warriors side, Tampines had clearly shown the depth in their squad for their disposal with the naming of three Prime League players in their starting eleven whose performance were lauded by coach Akbar Nawaz after the 3-0 win.

Of the youth triumvirate, 19-year-old midfielder Ariyan Malik put in his name in the scoresheet in the 62nd minute while Fabian Kwok doubled the scores earlier in the 55th minute.

Saifullah (43) did not let his dad down in this match
"It's not easy to have three youngsters to start in a game," said Coach Akbar, a former staff coach with the National Football Academy (NFA), in the post-match media briefing."And I think it's important to have belief in your players and getting the best out of them."

"Credit must go to them for stepping up in this game which I think is good for them."

Other than that, Coach Akbar was equally pleased with the overall display by his men that saw them not only clinched a spot in the semi-finals but also kept a clean sheet against the nine-time league champions, an improved showing than their last game against Hougang United whom they conceded four goals.

Coach Akbar pleased with the options he is having 
Added the 41-year-old tactician:"Definitely, it would be three-nil given anytime of the day when who would be happy to concede four goals (like we did against Hougang)?

"Today, we were tactically smart and patient in our defence that saw my team played according to plan."

In another fixture of the evening saw three-time Cup holder Brunei DPMM beat Hougang United 2-0 to join the Stags in the next phase of the mid-season tournament.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Undesirable Break ...

Geylang International's Hasrin Jailani
Following his side exit from the RHB Singapore Cup on aggregate after the two-all draw with defending Cup holders Albirex Niigata (Singapore), Geylang International coach Hasrin Jailani is a worried man.

It wasn't the outcome on that evening bother him when he saw his Eagles surrendered a two-goal lead at half-time which was cancelled by the double from an impressive Atsushi Kawata in the second half.

In fact, he was pleased with the team's performance, nonetheless, his main concern is he will see several of his players away for national team duty soon.

"I will see seven of my players call up for the national team," said the former national midfielder after that match on the announcement which was released on the same evening prior to the last Friday game at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Dan Bennett (c) is back in Lions setup again 
Of which, it saw the return of veteran Daniel Bennett to the national setup after a three-year absence and naming of uncapped 'keeper Syazwan Buhari in national caretaker coach V Sundram moorthy's squad of 25 for their upcoming training trip to Japan.

Whilst, the 41-year-old rookie head coach is happy to see a number from his roster being selected for the Lions duty, he is, however, more concern of the break between now until their next game that might affect their momentum.

Said the one-time Woodlands Wellington man:"The break came at a time when our momentum is building up and with that came in between before our next game, it will have impact on our performance.

"With the unavailable of those players who will be away with the national team, I will have to field some Prime League players in the (New Paper) League Cup matches." revealed Coach Hasrin on his plan for the fixture-yet-to-be-announced mid-season tournament.

Home United struggled to regain composure since June
Such fear is not without a cause when one should take a look at Home United as a form of case study.

The Protectors were on a rampage before the last similar break with a pinnacle display had the defending League champions Brunei DPMM being ripped apart at Bishan.

Since then, things aren't look the same for two-time League champions who had failed to recapture the form that placed them on the pedestal in the title chase.

When asked after losing to Balestier Khalsa on 14th of June, if the less desirable form since the resuming of League action was due to the recess period when national team was away in Myanmar for the AYA Bank Cup tournament proven disruptive.

Robin Chitrakar, the Home United assistant coach refuted that suggestion by claiming it wasn't just his club facing this, but the rest of the League as well.

Indeed, it's a matter of who can get their act together quickly when it matters most like Tampines Rovers did when Akbar Nawas inherited the hot seat from Sundram and led the Stags to string of victories since June.

Tampines Rovers are on fire since June
Right after the crucial 1-0 win over Albirex at Jurong West in late June that halted the Japanese side's impressive ten-game winning streak and narrowed the gap between the two at the top of the ladder to four points in the title chase, the ex-NFA staff coach was asked if it would be a concern for him with the upcoming break that might be something unwelcome for the AFC Cup quarter-finalists.

“With this break, it might goes well for us or might not because it could break our rhythm, given the four competitions we are playing now but we will take one game at a time." said Coach Akbar during the post-match press conference back then.

Tampines Rover's Akbar Nawaz
Former Woodlands coach Shasi Kumar weighted in his opinion on these discussed above when he questioned the scheduling of the upcoming League Cup tournament that coincided with the national team centralized training during the same period.

Said the former Gombak United player:"I don't see why the break should be more than two weeks and why should League Cup coincide with the national team duties? It shouldn't.

"It is putting clubs with ambitions to win the (League) Cup at a disadvantage. Why should it?" citing that teams affected by the Lions centralized training, which is due to begin on the 11th of July (same day as the League Cup tournament) will have to field a relatively younger side, as suggested by Geylang's Hasrin earlier.

"When it comes to national team commitments, there is no choice and clubs have to live with that. Such break is set in the calendar way beforehand, so clubs have to plan accordingly.

"But it should be planned way in advance, unlike how our S.League fixtures which are planned at the last minute year in and year out. So that has to change." added Shasi who led the Rams to the runners-up spot behind Etoile FC in the 2010 League Cup.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

[TNP League Cup] - Clubs urged to "youth-first" but Young Lions missed out (again)

Group photo at the end of the session
Perennial absentees Garena Young Lions will not be competing in this year's The New Paper League Cup for the third consecutive year after they last featured this tournament back in 2013 which they finished as “Plate Final Runners-up”.

This notion was confirmed when the de-facto national U23 squad was not on the drawing list with the remaining eight teams of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League had their fate in the competition decided in this afternoon at the News Centre.

Confirming another earlier report which was mentioned by citing unconfirmed sources a day before on this blog's Facebook page, was the omission of the amateur National Football League (NFL) sides from this season's edition, thus making this a genuine solitary League Cup contest.

S.League CEO Lim Chin
In his opening speech, S.League CEO Lim Chin thanks The New Paper (TNP) for their continuing support as tournament's title sponsors and lauded the Cup as a platform to allow clubs to expose their young players, an opportunity to be talent-spotted which he hopes the coaches will “embrace” such belief.

Concurring the thoughts of the former Chief of Artillery is Hougang United's Coach K Balagumaran.

Speaking to this blogger on the sidelines following the draw, the former Gombak United coach said:“I will use this tournament to try out some young players or players who have limited playing times (in the S.League) like Iqbal (Hussain) who is serving his NS (National Service) and Samuel Benjamin who just came back from an injury.”

TNP editor Dominic Nathan (left) drawn Albirex to Group B
The participating eight teams were drawn into two groups (Group A and B) of four by the various representatives from TNP, with a few of whom were asked to share their thoughts on the outcome while on stage.

Group A will see three-time winners Brunei DPMM, alongside powerhouses Tampines Rovers with Hougang United and Warriors FC. Defending Cup holders and league leaders Albirex Niigata (Singapore) found themselves accompanied by last season's runners-up Balestier Khalsa together with Geylang International and Home United.

After a “round-robin” stage, the top two teams from each group will proceed to the semi-finals with the bottom two of the each group will qualify for the “Plate” competition, whilst the actual dates of the fixtures are to be made known on a later date, it will be scheduled between 11th to 30th of July.

“Many said this (tournament) is about giant-killing, but in my opinion all teams in both Group A and B are all strong teams,” said Coach Balagumaran who shared his thoughts on the outcome.“So whoever plays well on that day will win the game and for Hougang, being underdogs (in Group A), we will have to work hard and qualify for the next round.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No Acclimatize Is Necessary for the "Dazzler" ...

Sundram (foreground) is set to take over Lions' job
So, if what was reported in the media that Tampines Rovers coach V Sundram moorthy (pictured foreground) is going to be the next Lions coach on a year deal, so be it.

As many argued a local coach like him should equipped with the essential knowledge of local scene, as compared to a raw foreign coach. Therefore, he should be ready for the grilling task ahead.

SHADOW LIONS COACH ...
Not to forget the "Dazzler" had been assistant to former national coaches like Raddy Avramovic and the recent departed Bernd Stange on numerous assignments and even served as an interim national coach before the appointment of German Stange, so he should not be unfamiliar with the national team setup at all.

Sundram (third from left) was assistant to Coach Raddy (left) 
Added to the fact, he was once the coach of the disbanded LionsXII which boasted many of those top local players that formed the backbone of the national team in recent years and coupled to his present Tampines squad, which is filled with a number of those who used to play for the one-time Malaysian League champions, it is not exaggerated at all to say he IS the “Lions Coach In The Shadow”.

So when media projected the one-year proposed deal to the former national striker for the top job in recent weeks, I can't understand what was the hoo-ha about of claiming a twelve-month is deemed not enough?

NO HONEYMOON PERIOD...
Given those pointers highlighted earlier, Coach Sundram shall be ready to perform his projected new role (after his departure from Tampines was confirmed by the club chairman), without any honeymoon period, upon tidying up those loose ends following the AFC Cup match against Mohun Bagan.

Other than that, let's wait for the official unveiling which I doubt he, as a pragmatic tactician, would carry some pebbles in his pocket like Stange did in his introductory session.

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