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”.

No comments:

Post a Comment