Thursday, January 12, 2012

Uniform Derby (S.league) - 31/12/11

A phone call between the coaches was all it took as the country’s two uniformed teams put their recent work on the training pitch to test on New Year’s Eve at Jalan Besar Stadium.

In the end, the game went in favour of the side which have had a solid week of pre-season training – SAF FC, by a 2-0 scoreline.

In contrast, Home United had just started work three days earlier. Coach Lee Lim Seang’s main intention was to check on the condition of his charges after having spent the past weeks back in Korea to attain his UEFA Pro Licence.

During the game, the Warriors paraded their two new signings from Tampines - Shukor Zailan and Hassan Sunny, along Eddie Chang and a bunch of promising young boys who have been promoted from their Prime League team.

Lee, on the same note, took a first look at promising Hafiz Nor (from Tanjong Pagar) and compatriot Chang Jo Yoon (from Gombak), while checking out a new look defence consisting of seasoned campaigners like Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Jeremy Chiang and Zahid Ahmad along a Korean trialist.

However it was in midfield where the attention was as it featured former Warriors Rhysh Roshan Rai and the ever industrious John Wilkinson, who was returning from his Thai adventure.

New signing Shotaro Ihata was carrying a minor injury, thus did not feature, as were key men Shi Jiayi and Frederic Mendy who were still on holiday.

Earlier on in the game, it was Shahril Jantan in the Warriors goal who was the busiest as he was tested fully by Hafiz, Roshan Rai and Qiu Li. Wilkinson also had a trademark long range blaster crashing against the woodwork.

But it was the returnee in the Warriors’ camp - Ruzaini Zainal (on loan to Young Lions), that was instrumental in the final result as the winger were involved in both moves which saw the strike duo of Fazrul Nawaz and Erwan Gunawan finish off in the 30th and 33th minute.

Notably, the second period saw the return to action of Hassan in the Warriors’ goal and the national custodian impressed in his run-out with a couple of good saves.

Post-match, SAF coach Richard Bok expressed satisfaction with the game as he maintained the priority in making his team gel quickly before the season begins.

“We still have five players who are not back with us”, referring to Daniel Bennett, foreign signings Mislav Karolgan, Shimpei Sakurada, Tatsuro Inui and former Japanese youth international Seiji Saito.

With his recent acquisitions, Bok is hopeful that the reshaped team will be able to play the ideal type of football he is envisaging.

“We are trying to move towards a passing game, to keep the ball as much as possible. Hopefully, with these new guys, we can build a more balanced game to challenge for honours”.

While Bok has settled on his squad and strategy for the coming season, it is obvious the same cannot be same with Lee.

Quizzed about his defence which seemed vulnerable on many occasions during the game following the confirmation of defensive rock Valery Hiek to Thai outfit Bangkok Glass, it seemed Lee had already in place a partial solution.

“As you saw today, we got a big problem (in defence)!” he quipped.

“So I have called Kenji (Arai) and he is coming back next week to be with us”.

The experienced Japanese defender had earlier left the Protectors after not being offered an extension to his deal.

“People can worry about our defence now, but we train as a unit and let’s see what we can show when the season starts”, he smiled confidently.

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