Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back in Green for a night

Kim wins the duel of Koreans as Eagles snap winless streak

Tuesday night’s Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League match saw two Koreans who recently joined their respective teams in the mid-season transfer window go head-to-head.

After ninety minutes, it was clear which Korean had stamped his authority on the game. The name more local fans would be familiar with - Geylang’s Kim Jae Hong, won the battle hands down as the attacking midfielder created the first goal before adding his name to the scoresheet, leading Geylang United to a comfortable 2-0 victory at Hougang Stadium.

His counterpart, Sengkang’s An Jae Cheul, huffed and puffed in the middle of the park but hardly made an impact before being substituted in the second half.

No doubt Geylang fans will be glad to see Kim back with the side as the Korean had played a key role in the Eagles’ cup triumph last season with his penetrating runs and crucial goals.

With this performance, it looks like the Eagles’ managment have done a good piece of business in replacing the injury-hit Miroslav Latiak, who has been bothered with groin problems all season,
The win allows the Eagles to snap a five game winless streak and move up to fourth place in the league standings.

Sengkang coach Aide Iskandar had sprang a surprise in his line-up when he paired a half-fit Jordan Webb with livewire Mamadou Diallo upfront, probably seeking to exploit the Geylang’s defence with sheer pace.

However, even before his plan could take effect, his team found themselves already a goal down.
Off a Syed Thaha throw-in from the left after just fifty seconds into the match, Kim dazzled his way past a couple of defenders into the Sengkang penalty area. After some pinball in the box, teammate Itmi Dickson finally found space to thump the ball into the roof of the net to leave the Sengkang players shell-shocked.

With a goal advantage, the Eagles sat back a little but still managed to control much of the game.
Itimi was proving to be a handful early on as his pace and trickery left the Sengkang defenders backpedalling on many occasions in the first period.

At the other end, it was Mamadou who was causing the Eagles backline problems with his darting runs.

In the 36th minute, the Guinean youngster won a freekick which he himself executed. The swerving attempt was good but Eagles custodian Yazid Yasin proved his worth with a good save.
Three minutes earlier, a misjudgement by Shahir Hamzah had almost led in Kim but Dolphins’ keeper Fadhil Salim was alert and diverted the Korean’s half volley away with his legs.

Just before the break, Sengkang had two good opportunities to equalize.

First, midfielder Sobrie Mazelan struck a fierce volley that just missed Yazid’s righthand post. The chance came after Webb had set him up well from leftback Duncan Elias’ sweet cross.
Then in the 44th minute, Webb took on a few Geylang defenders before feeding Jalal.

Unfortunately, the winger was called for offiside else he would have been through on goal. It was a let-off for the Eagles’ defence.

The Dolphins came out of the dressing room looking for the equaliser and almost got it in the 48th minute had their own Korean An not been so wasteful.

Webb showed excellent control and acceleration as he pulled down a high ball before dashing down the by-line. His pullback was brilliant but An somehow blazed over from ten yards. It was probably the home side’s best chance on the night.

Next up to threaten Yazid in the Geylang goal was Duncan, whose usual set-piece routine caused chaos in the Eagles’ penalty area on a couple of occasions.

Geylang on the other hand, was relying on their swift counter attacks with Kim and half-time substitute Yasir Hanapi leading the charge.

It was through one of this combination in the 56th minute which striker Peter Tomko almost profited, however, his marker Shahir did well to deflect the Slovak’s attempt wide.
A minute later, a poor kickout by Fadhil proved costly for the Dolphins.

Geylang wingback Syed Fadhil intercepted the kick and played a long ball down the middle which the pacy Kim reacted quickest and latched on to. The Korean took a touch with his left boot to control before finishing clinically into the Sengkang goal with his right.

It was the Eagles’ fleet footed attacker’s first goal since returning to the Eagles early this month.

Though two goals down, the Dolphins continued to show effort through their hard running but was let down their passing and decision making, especially in the last third of the field.

On the few occasions that Mamadou, Jordan, and gang conjured up promising moves near the Geylang goal, a combination of uncompromising defending by the Geylang defenders and alert goalkeeping by Yazid kept the Dolphins at bay.

In fact, it was Kim who had the best chance to get the game’s third goal towards the end of the game when a smart inter-change with Yasir and Tomko saw the Korean broke free down the left.

But from a narrow angle, he could only blast the ball high and off target.

Reflecting on the game, a visibly dejected Aide Iskandar admitted that Geylang were the better and hungrier side on the night. Summing up the game, he said, “It was disappointing to concede an early goal. Although we played much better in the second half, another mistake caused us to lose a second goal”.

In contrast, Eagles’ coach Mike Wong was in a more positive mood. He commented, “I am happy with the three points, but we still made some silly mistakes in the game”.

Looking forward to their next game against their eastern rivals Tampines Rovers in twelve days time, he added, “This mini break will give us time to reorganise and this win is important as it will lift the players’ spirits during this period.”

When quizzed about Kim’s performance, Wong commented, “Yes, Kim is an important player to us as he can exploit spaces behind the opponents’ defence. I am happy that he has scored on his third game back with us and hopefully his form will last long till the end of the season”.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Euro 2008's Spain > WC 2010's Spain

"Sometimes the obvious simply blinds the not so obvious"

Let me put this clear. I like Spain, their style of play and I support them.

Prior to kickoff at Euro 2008, Xin-爷 and I had a chat and the idea of Spain winning the tournament was explored and after some deliberation, discussion and analysis, decided to back them a few times on route to the final.

At that time, nobody gave them a chance and the pressure was off the players.

But i just think that a lot of people have not realize that Spain has come into the tournament this time with too much hype but in a worse condition than going into Euro 2008 despite going 40+ intl games unbeaten.

Why do I say so:

a) The only recent return of El Nino, Cesc Fabregas to the team. U cant be at your peak right?

b) Andres Iniesta is an extremely vital element of the side but still bugged by injury

c) Xavi, after a tough european season where he played the last part carrying a calf injury, is also not at 100%. Just to note he is one who is seldom rested by Pep. And the fact that my Barca was pushed all the way to the wire by our deadliest rivals

d) Absence of Marcos Senna, this has been mentioned b4 in reports. Alonso is no Senna, neither is Busquets. If you remember, Senna played a more defensive role in the Euros than at club level but to perfection, setting the platform for Xavi to probe along with Iniesta and David Silva

e) The overwhelming expectation of the country. Possible?

f) Luis Aragones factor. This is Vicente Del Bosque's first big tournament. Maybe he is just Real material? nothing more?

g) Jesus Navas and Pedro are impressive, but relatively lack experience at intl level. Too much weight on them to certain youngsters to turn the game when needed?

Above are points to ponder about.

But still, i hope that the team can pull itself up, make some changes and progress further. However, I am of the feeling it wont be the ones to lift the cup in July.

But then again, the team I think will win the tournament has players not at 100% condition too. Hmm.. Contradicting?

WC - 15 June: Embarassments

Brazil's defender Juan had his name badly mispronounced by the whole game yesterday. unbelieveable error by the seasoned commentator. It should be Hoo-an, not Jew-an.

U don't pronounce Jew-an Sebastian Veron do you?

I say Chong Tese 鄭大世(as he is known in Japan) looks much better with his hair up there. He tried too hard imitate Wazza man..

WC - 13 June: Delights

By the end of July, i believe non-German football fans will know the name Mesut Özil.

Ghana baik! photographed for the first underdogs win : )

Monday, June 14, 2010

Aide wakes up

Finally, our dear Sengkang coach has FINALLY address his defensive problems by bringing in an experienced Kenji Arai to lead the line, although the Jap may not be the best defender, i think he is at least experienced and good enough to provide Shahir Hamzah with some good pointers.

Rather than having a Diallo Abdoulaye, Nor Azli or Sim Li Ming along Shahir right?

It addresses the problem pointed out earlier that Aide got his foreigners' priority wrong at the start of the season when he went for foreigners further up the field, leaving the backline w/o a old warhorse.

Hopefully the central defensive partnership take off and we will see the former Young Lions' player recover his early season promise too..

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dominant French cruised to a convincing win

M97: Etoile FC vs Tampines

By: Hugo Ng

The highly anticipated top of the table clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wenesday night turned out to be a somewhat one-sided affair as Etoile FC put four unanswered goals past Tampines Rovers to record a second 4-0 league victory this season.

In the process of doing so, the French side has taken over the league leadership once again, albeit for a longer period this time, by opening up a two point advantage over the Stags.

This win also means that they have defeated all of the so-called “Big Three” in the league, having notched a solitary goal win against Home United last week and previously slayed the SAF Warriors comprehensively by three goals.

Quality in the middle of the pitch proved to be key in this matchup as Etoile’s trio of Cyril Bagnost, Kevin Yann and Khaled Kharroubi and flying winger Karim Boudjema imposed themselves right from the word go. For once, the Tampines could not an answer to their opponents’ superior passing and movement, which is not often the case.

Boudjema, in particular, impressed throughout as he laid off three assists for his teammates.
Etoile’s first chance came as early as the second minute when their main man Frederic Mendy’s volley hit the side netting after captain Matthias Vershave had fed him with a delightful ball from the right wing.

Tampines responded down the other end through as striker Aleksander Duric took goalkeeper Hassan Sunny’s long punt down and set up “The Little Master” Aliff Shafaein, whose left-foot shot was parried by Etoile’s custodian Yohann Lacroix.

It was to be the Stags’ only meaningful goal attempt in the first period as possession was with the French team for long periods and the team in yellow was only able to create limited chances that were easy for the Etoile backline to sweep up.

Hassan had to be alert to tip a Julien Deletraz free-kick over on the 12th minute mark. From the resulting corner that was taken short, the national keeper had to be quick off his line to put Mendy off after Kharroubi’s cross somehow him free in the penalty box.

However, there was no stopping Mendy in the 23th minute. Boudjema’s clever slide-rule pass after a sweet move initiated by Kharroubi allowed the striker to get in on the blind side of Tampines defender Seiji Kaneko. The lanky striker held off the Japanese’s challenge before netting the game’s opening goal from a tight angle.

The former Kashima Antlers defender was having a tough time containing Mendy and worse was to come on the stroke on half time.

But moments before that, Etoile had went 2-0 up. Again, Boudjema was the instigator. He took Kaneko and Benoit Crossiant on for a run, exposing the Stags defence before slipping a pass to the onrushing Yann to tuck home despite substitute defender Park Yo Seb’s desperate effort to keep the ball out.

Next came a crucial moment in the game. Kaneko, who had already been unluckily cautioned in the 17th minute after teammate Jamil Ali had played him into trouble, fouled Mendy from behind and earned his second yellow of the evening, leaving his team to fight a fire which was already proving extremely tough to put out.

Finding themselves with a comfortable two goal lead and a man advantage, Etoile started to stroke the ball around more at the start of the second period, making use of the full width of the pitch and having their fans cheering every pass.

Aliff had a quiet game by his high standards, coming into life only in bits and pieces. In the 50th minute, he orchestrated a one-two with Duric, only to be halted by the linesman’s flag when he was through on goal as Duric had been in an offside position earlier.

That proved to be the last contribution from “The Little Master” as Coach Vorawan made a double substitution seven minutes later with forward Qiu Li being one of those brought into the game. He was to prove pivotal as the Stags finally began to pierce a few openings in the stubborn French defence.

Vorawan’s last throw of the dice, though bore no fruit in the end, gave Tampines hope as Qiu Li struck a brilliant left foot curler two minutes after coming on which left Lacroix grasping thin air , only to see it ricochet off the keeper’s goalframe.

In the 63th minute however, Etoile dealt the Stags another blow. Vershave’s deep cross was met by Boudjema’s head to divert the ball back into the danger zone and Mendy pounced on it with a diving header to grab his second of the night to make the score 3-0.

Tampines looked dead and buried at this point but they did not give up.

Qiu Li sent a thunderous free-kick sizzling past Lacroix and a minute later his cushion header found teammate Akihiro Nakamura free in the box. But the S-League journeyman inexplicably fluffed a simple half volley with only the keeper to beat.

With his side three goals down and getting constantly booed by the Etoile fans for incidents dating to the last meeting between the two sides, Croissant was starting to get wind up and it was clear he was losing his concentration. But credit to the Frenchman for ultimately keeping his cool and getting on with the game.

The 85th minute saw Etoile net their final goal of the night. From a clearance off a Duric free-kick, a defensive mistake by the Stags backline allowed the French side to pour forward. Off a brilliant pass from Bagnost, Vershave made his way into the box before firing a stiff grounder past Hassan Sunny for 4-0.

In the post-match press conference, Etoile’s coach Patrick Vallee revealed he felt “very good” after the win.

When quizzed about what went right on the night for his team, he quipped, “The players imposed the system that I wanted to play. It was a good decision”.

He added, “We played for a win and I think we deserved it when you look at the game on the whole as our goalkeeper only had one or two saves to make in each half”.

However, he got all emotional when asked about his post match reactions to a small group of spectators.

In response, Vallee said, “I respect everybody and I expect the same from the others. I am here to raise the standard for Singapore football, not to talk about my family”, as he let the media in that the same group of men have been repeatedly abusing him verbally at games and he urged FAS to look into it.

Meanwhile, Stags’ coach Vorawan Chitavanich had a smile for the reporters though in defeat. When questioned about it, he declared, “I am proud of my players as they showed fighting spirit even when we were a man down and losing”.

Reflecting on the game, he concluded, “It was not a lucky day, when we wanted to fight back, we made too many mistakes and holes appeared in our defence”.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Tampines Rovers warmed up for their upcoming top of the table clash with Etoile by crushing the youthful Beijing Guoan Talent side 4-0 last night at their Tampines cauldron in the first part of its two matchups within three days against the league’s foreign teams.

This allowed them to head into Wednesday’s crunch game at Jalan Besar with the comfort of top spot after the French side had momentarily occupied pole position for twenty-four hours with a victory over the Eagles on Saturday night.

Stags’ coach Vorawan Chitavanich fielded the identical eleven that had surprisingly lost to the Young Lions three days earlier despite initial fears of the lack of recovery period for the elder statesmen of his team like Aleksander Duric and captain Zulkarnaen Zainal. His decision was helped partly due to the continued absence of national forward Khairul Amri and wingback Imran Sahib while Qiu Li was only fit enough for a spot on the substitutes’ bench.

The youthful Beijing side started brightly from the start and managed to threaten the Stags from a few set-piece situations but with nothing to show for.

Slowly, the more experienced heads of the Tampines players got into the game and netted their opening goal from their first real attack in the tenth minute after good combination play between Jamil Ali and Aliff Shafaein.

Jamil won the ball on the left flank and made his way into the centre before laying the ball to Aliff. The Stags’ No 19, dubbed as “The Little Master” by the media, returned Jamil with a peach of a pass that saw the former Woodlands man run through on goal before easily finishing with a low grounder past the Beijing keeper Su Boyang.

Eight minutes later, Aliff was at it again as Zahid Ahmad released the nippy playmaker down the left wing. Fortunately, the Beijing defence recovered in time to clear the centre from “The Little Master” out for a corner.

In the 20th minute, Stags keeper Hassan Sunny was called into his first real action of the night as he pulled off a wonderful one-handed save to deny Liu Teng’s point blank header after forward Li Tixiang had whipped in a good cross from the right.

Credit has to be given to the Chinese side as they continued to create opportunities in a bid to equalise before half-time and had two good chances to do so. However in both situations, they were denied by the impressive Hassan.

The first of which happened in the 40th minute. Liu Teng’s cross from the right flank was cushioned by striker Tan Tiancheng nicely into the path of rightback Yu Tianzhu, whose low shot was tipped wide by Hassan’s fingertips.

Just before the interval, a five-man move initated by Li Tixiang culminated in Yu having another golden chance at goal. This time, Hassan put his giant frame into good use as he flung himself ala Peter Schmeichel style to deny the Beijing man.

In between the two Beijing attempts, Tampines missed an opportunity of themselves as Jamil took one touch too many and the chance went begging after wonderful approach play by Duric and Zahid.

Within a minute after the break, Beijing raided the Tampines left flank and almost leveled the score but Tan just narrowly missed connecting a cross from the right wing with a half volley.

Stags hit three in twelve minutes

It was to prove costly as the Stags went two up four minutes later.

Anchorman Shukor Zailan slid Aliff through with a delicious ball down the Beijing centre. “The Little Master” shook off the attentions of defender Ma Chongchong as he took the ball in his stride before slotting past keeper Su for two nil.

Beijing coach Zheng XIaotian reacted with a double substitution in the 55th minute, bringing on Lei Tenglong and Teng Bin as he sought to find a way back into the game.

Unfortunately, the plan backfired as the Stags added a third goal within a minute of the changes.
Once again “The Little Master” was at the heart of the move as he collected a pass from Ismadi Mukhtar, cut into the middle before laying the ball on a plate for Duric to slam the ball in for 3-0.

Beijing’s night was not to get any better as the Stags took advantage of the loss of organisation in their opponents’ backline to notch a fourth goal six minutes later.

A measured pass inside his own half by Jamil was immaculately controlled by Aliff with one touch to set up Duric.

The evergreen striker had the luxury to control the ball and ward off the challenge of Su before netting his second of the night with a left foot shot that trickled into goal despite the best effort by substitute Lei on the goalline.

Though they were 4-0 down, the Talents showed desire to grab at least a consolation goal but those hopes were more than once denied by Singapore’s No 1 Hassan.

Wang Hao and substitute Teng produced a couple of decent attempts at goal after marauding runs near to the Stags’ penalty box but found Hassan in top form.

The pick of his saves came in the 85th minute after Teng mesmerized Stags’ substitute Jufri Thaha down the left and charged to the bye-line before pulling the ball back for top scorer Tan Tiancheng.

This time, Hassan’s legs came in the way of Tan’s shot as he made sure his goal remained intact.
Tampines almost scored a fifth deep into injury-time but substitute Edward Tan somehow missed a sitter after good work by Duric.

Morale booster

Stags’ coach Vorawan Chitavanich expressed delight at his team’s overall performance and agreed that it had indeed been a morale boosting win, especially coming off a defeat against the Young Lions previously.

His felt that his prematch concerns of his charges’ fitness levels was somewhat alleviated by the fact that they had the faithful home crowd behind them.

When asked of his views with regards to the performance of “The Little Master”, Vorawan commented: “After spending the last seven years with me, Aliff has definitely grown and has been able to adapt well into my game plan and make important plays for the team”.

His counterpart Zheng Xiaotian was left to rue the individual errors by his players which he concluded proved costly at the end. He said that tactical changes were made during the game but ultimately was not enough to grab any rewards from the game. He also acknowledged the brilliant display by Hassan in the Tampines’ goal.

Tampines’ focus now turns to the intriguing clash between the league’s top two teams as they do battle on Wednesday evening. If their last meeting in March can be an indication of what is to be expected, football fans can surely expect fireworks at Jalan Besar - both on and off the field.