Category: Match Preview

Stags keen to avoid missteps against Protectors as title race heats up

Tampines Rovers will be seeking to cut Albirex Niigata (S) lead at the the summit of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table when they pay Home United a visit at Bishan Stadium on Saturday night.

The White Swans currently have a four-point advantage over the Stags and with only five games left in the league, Akbar Nawas’ charges know that they cannot afford anymore slip-ups at this crucial juncture in the title race.

Tampines fell to a 2-1 defeat to Hougang United at home in their last league game before the international break, but two hard fought wins over Ceres La Salle to book their place in the RHB Singapore Cup final since then would have restored the Stags’ confidence.

However, the Stags are hampered by injuries and suspension to key players when they face the Protectors as they will be without Fabian Kwok, Shahdan Sulaiman, Fazrul Nawaz and Billy Mehmet, who will serve the first of his two-match suspension.

As for the Protectors, new coach Aidil Sharin has enjoyed a mixed fortunes since the start of his tenure, with a convincing 3-0 victory over Warriors FC, before watching his side let slip a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 to Hougang.

Home are also having their own injury crisis at the moment, especially in defence, with defenders Abdil Qaiyyim, R.Aaravin, Ang Zhi Wei and Sim Teck Yi all out and will field a makeshift backline against the Stags.

The good news for Aidil is that he will probably get to call on Khairul Nizam, as well as Irfan Fandi, who can now play on a more frequent basis after finishing his basic training in national service.

The Protectors have already registered a win over the Stags when the two sides met back in May, and will be looking to complete a double over Akbar’s charges on Saturday night.

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RHB SINGAPORE CUP 2016: Depleted Stags determined to finish the job.

A depleted Tampines Rovers side will have to dig deep to hold on to their advantage over Ceres La Salle and secure safe passage into the RHB Singapore Cup final when the two sides meet again on Wednesday night in the semi-final second-leg at Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Stags eked out a 2-1 victory over the Busmen in the first-leg at Jurong West Stadium on Sunday night, but the win came at cost for Akbar Nawas’ charges as Shakir Hamzah was sent off, while captain Mustafic Fahrudin picked up his second yellow card of the competition.

Shakir and Mustafic will join Yasir Hanapi, who is suspended for both legs, on the sidelines and if that is not enough, Fabian Kwok has been ruled out for a month because of a tear in his knee, while Fazrul Nawaz has joined Shahdan Sulaiman on the long-term injury list.

That leaves Tampines with only 10 outfield first-team players when they face Ceres again and they will be forced to call upon their Prime League players to make up the numbers on the bench or on the field.

Akbar has acknowledged that it will be an uphill task to secure victory again, especially since Ceres are still very much alive in the tie and only have a goal difference to make up for.

However, the 41-year-old coach believes that tough times like this builds character and if his charges stay tight as a unit, their teamwork will see them through.

“The second leg will be really tough because I will be missing Farra (Mustafic), Shakir and Yasir (Hanapi),” said the coach after the first-leg victory over Ceres.

“Right now I only have 10 outfield players plus two goalkeepers; the rest are Prime League players.

“It’s tough during times like this, but if the team keeps together and fight, we can nick it.”

As for the Filipino club, they will be boosted by the return of first-team players Kevin Ingreso, Manuel Ott and Stephan Schrock after the trio missed the first-leg through injuries.

The United Football League defending champions more than held their own against the Stags despite missing their key players and believe that another such display will be enough to book their spot in the final.

However, Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic will be missing from the touchline after being sent to the stands in the first-leg, with technical director Ali Bernard set to take over coaching duties.

Suspension: Shakir Hamzah, Mustafic Fahrudin and Yasir Hanapi (Tampines Rovers), Risto Vidakovic (Ceres La Salle)

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Stags turn focus to Cup conquest

Tampines Rovers will be looking to get back to winning ways following their defeat to Hougang United in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League as they host Ceres La Salle FC in the RHB Singapore Cup semi-finals first leg match at the Jurong West Stadium on Sunday night.

The Stags went down 2-1 in that match which allowed Albirex Niigata (S) to extend their lead at the top to four points. Coach Akbar Nawaz took full responsibility for that loss and wants his players to focus on their opponents, the Busmen from the Philippines.

“We were riding on our luck the last couple of games and I think it is good to flush out, look for what is going wrong and get ready for the next game,” said Akbar who is known for his offensive strategy which at times exposed his backline to counter-attacks.

“We have been talking about it ever since I took over (from V.Sundramoorthy), but when you take risks, you will be susceptible for some kind of attacks by the opponents,” explained Akbar on his attacking tactics.

Akbar will be hoping that his star-player Jermaine Pennant will be available for this tie as his presence was sorely missed by the team in their last match. Also doubtful for the semi-final match is midfielder Fabian Kwok.

Over to the Filipino outfit, they failed to pick up maximum points in their previous two matches, a 2-2 draw to Stallion FC last week and a 2-1 reverse to Green Archers United earlier in the month.

They made the final four stage after seeing off Brunei DPMM 5-3 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile Tampines defeated another Philippines club in the quarters, a 5-2 win over Global FC over two legs.

Stags and the Busmen are no strangers to each other as they have met twice in the AFC Cup group stage.

The first match at the Jalan Besar Stadium ended in 1-1 draw with Hafiz Sujad scoring for the home side while Adrian Gallardo netting the equaliser late in the game. Ceres won the second match played in Bacalod 2-1, with Bienvenido Morejon and Gallardo scoring a goal each from the penalty spot in the first half while Billy Mehmet reduced the deficit after the break.

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Tampines v Ceres La Salle: Be here for our RHB Singapore Cup clash

Be here to cheer on the lads as we host Ceres La Salle in the 1st Leg Semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup. The clash takes place on Sunday August 21, with a 7.30m kick-off. Jurong West Stadium.

Tampines and Ceres La Salle are no strangers to each other as they have met twice in the AFC Cup group stage.

The first match at the Jalan Besar Stadium ended in 1-1 draw with Hafiz Sujad scoring for the home side while Adrian Gallardo netting the equaliser late in the game. Ceres won the second match played in Bacalod 2-1, with Bienvenido Morejon and Gallardo scoring a goal each from the penalty spot in the first half while Billy Mehmet reduced the deficit after the break.



Tampines Rovers teenager fills in for injured Jermaine Pennant in S.League

Without injured ex-Liverpool star Jermaine Pennant for Wednesday night’s home match against Hougang United, Tampines Rovers will hand a debut to an American teenager as they look to keep pace with Albirex Niigata (S) at the top of the S.League.

Diego Silvas, 18, is the son of ex-United States international Tom Silvas and will take over Pennant’s playmaker role for the game at Jurong West Stadium.

Pennant hasn’t fully recovered from an Achilles tendon injury after serving a one-match suspension for Tampines’ 3-2 victory over Warriors FC on Aug. 12. It means that Silvas will be thrown into the deep end, with Tampines one point behind Albirex at the top of the S.League table.

“I’m excited and ready to make my debut,” Silvas told ESPN FC.

“I’m not really filling Jermaine’s shoes, but I have to play well to make up for his absence. He’s only gone for one game and hopefully he’s back for the next match.”

Silvas was on the books of the Seattle Sounders, playing for Major League Soccer side’s U18 and second teams between 2014-16.

Hailing from the Bay area near San Francisco, he has the reputation of being a skilful and technically gifted midfielder, capable of pinpoint free kicks.

He’s played three matches for Tampines’ Prime League team — two of them friendlies — after arriving in Singapore in June with his father.

Tom Silvas has been engaged by the Stags to work in a junior coaching role at grassroots level within the community.

While it will be a big step up to make his professional debut in a must-win game, Silvas says he feels confident because of the quality of players around him, like national striker Fazrul Nawaz, and talented imports Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb.

“I’m not really nervous,” he said. “We have a strong team, with great players who are good to play with. I’m confident we’ll do well.”

Tampines will go to the top of the table if they can beat Hougang United, with Albirex Niigata (S) facing Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.

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Stags looking to pile misery on beleaguered Warriors

Title-chasing Tampines Rovers will be gunning for a sixth straight Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League victory when they take on an out-of-sorts Warriors FC side at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Friday night.

The Stags have been revitalised under coach Akbar Nawas, stringing together five consecutive wins to whittle down Albirex Niigata (S)’s lead at the top to just a point.

In last week’s 2-1 victory against rivals Geylang International, the Jurong West-based side showed maturity to see out the game after coming under incessant late pressure from the Eagles.

As usual, it was the foreign duo of Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet who produced the goods upfront. However, credit also have to go to the likes of Jufri Taha and Mustafic Fahrudin who held the fort well.

All in all, it looks like a pretty happy Stags camp that are ready for their triple assault of the S.League, Singapore Cup and AFC Cup.

One minor blemish though is that key man Jermaine Pennant will miss out on this upcoming game due to a one-match suspension for accumulating four yellow cards.

On the other hand, it is not so merry over at the Warriors after suffering five successive defeats in all competitions.

The nine-time champions welcomed back several first teamers such as Yazid Yasin, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Madhu Mohana and Jonathan Behe against Home United the last time out, but still ended up being thumped 3-0.

The result severely dented their aspirations of attaining a top-three finish as they currently trail third-placed Home United and fourth-placed Brunei DPMM by seven points with just seven games left to play.

If not careful, they might just finish in the bottom two positions. That would be a real disastrous outcome for a club so accustomed to success in their history in the S.League.

Thus it is imperative that the Warriors arrest this alarming run of form before they slip further behind. Razif Onn’s men will have to do so without the services of Hafiz Osman though, with the centre back ruled out through suspension.

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Wasps and Stags battle for top spot

With their places in the semi-finals of The New Paper League Cup 2016 already secured, Brunei DPMM and Tampines Rovers will battle it out for a top place finish in Group A on Thursday night at Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Wasps and the Stags will be keen to avoid meeting defending champions Albirex Niigata, who won Group B, as the White Swans are looking unstoppable at the moment and have signalled their intentions of retaining their title.

Tampines are currently in second place because of goal difference, as they failed to keep a clean sheet in one of their victories, a 6-4 defeat of Hougang, before managing to shut up shop against Warriors FC in their second game, winning 3-0.

DPMM on the other hand, have not conceded a goal yet in this tournament this year, beating Warriors and Hougang United by four goals and two goals respectively.

However, the Wasps will be without influential playmaker Paulo Sergio, after the Portuguese was sent off against the Cheetahs and coach Steve Kean has admitted the striker’s presence will be a blow.

“Paulo’s red card took the shine off a good night for us because he’s not that type of player to stick his studs into someone’s face or head. It’s frustrating to lose him for two matches,” said Kean after the victory over the Cheetahs.

The Scot however, added that his side’s good form in the tournament will help soften the loss of Sergio and will put out his strongest possible side against the Stags in order to secure top spot.

“Nonetheless it’s been good for us; we’re scoring goals and we’ve kept two clean sheets. We’re not going to rest anyone for the final group game (against Tampines),” noted Kean.

“There is a good break till Thursday for us to recover and we’re going to fill our strongest side.”

Tampines will continue to miss the group of international players that are away with Singapore, as they will again be without Izwan Mahbud, Yasir Hanapi, Hafiz Sujad, Izzdin Shafiq, Shakir Hamzah, Afiq Yunos and Fazrul Nawaz.

Shahdan Sulaiman will remain on the sidelines, while Jermaine Pennant, who was an unused substitute against Warriors, will most likely be named in the starting lineup.

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Tampines Rovers vs Hougang United: Can Akbar maintain his perfect record?

League action will take a break for three weeks, as the League Cup gets underway, with Tampines taking on Hougang United in their first Group A game.
This is a tournament that Tampines have never won before, with two third-place finishes (in 2011 and 2012) their best results in the competition.
While the Stags will be determined to end their barren run in this Cup, it will not be an easy task, all things considered.

The Mighty Stags will be missing at least seven first-teamers due to national duty, while they will be mindful of incurring injuries unnecessarily, with Tampines still in the running for three other silverwares – most notably the domestic title as well as the AFC Cup.
Hougang on the other hand came close to winning the trophy back in 2011, as they failed to overcome Albirex Niigata (S) on penalties.
While the Cheetahs too have players called up by V.Sundramoorthy to join the Lions on a training tour, they will only be missing three first-team players.
After enjoying a perfect start as head coach of Tampines with seven straight victories, Akbar will be keen to extend his winning streak.

While the likes of Fazrul Nawaz and Izwan Mahbud will be away on international duty, Tampines can still call upon their foreign trio: Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet.
Expect youngsters like Saifullah Akbar to be given a run out too, as Tampines will be a little lightweight in midfield with Yasir Hanapi and Izzdin Shafiq called up by Sundram, while Shahdan Sulaiman is still on the road to recovery.
Hougang will be missing first-choice goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Nazari and M.Anumanthan.
Coach K.Balakumaran has also stated he will be looking to give youngsters like Iqbal Hussain a chance to prove their worth.

With Tampines looking light in midfield, Pennant should most probably be tasked to dictate play from the centre of the pitch.
His crosses and free-kicks will pose danger to the Cheetahs, so it is imperative that Pennant does not enjoy too much space or is fouled needlessly.
Kogure is also a competent playmaker, and how much Tampines see of the ball depends heavily on whether the Japanese can help dominate possession.

Akbar will have no choice but to give fringe players playing time, but it should not deter him from maintaining his philosophy of playing an attacking game.
His confidence will stem from the the foreign trio he possesses, as Webb, Pennant and Mehmet are a force to reckon with on their day.
Balakumaran will be hoping to enjoy some success in the Cup and so he promised to put in a fine mix of experience and youth.

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Pennant confident he can lift Tampines

From the heady heights of the Champions League final and the big English Premier League games, the career of Jermaine Pennant, at one point the most expensive teenager in British football, might not have gone as planned.

Tonight, he will lace up his boots in a more humble setting of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, as his Tampines Rovers tale on Selangor in Asia’s second-tier club competition.

Yet, while the occasion is far from the grandest he has performed in, today’s match against Selangor – at the 55,000-seat National Stadium – will be his most important since his foray into South-east Asia.

Only a win will do for the Stags who, entering the final match of the group stage, are third in Group E with seven points, one behind their Causeway rivals and two behind leaders Ceres of the Philippines.

Only the top two teams qualify for the round of 16, and Pennant, 33, had no qualms accepting that the onus is on him to carry the Stags to the next stage.
Asked if this is the time for him to justify the hype that surrounded his signing, Pennant told The Straits Times without hesitation: “I thought I’ve stepped up since I’ve been here. You’ve got to deliver in games and every game I’ve played in, I have delivered.

“Against Warriors (on Apr 30) we were losing 2-1 until I came on at half-time and we won 4-2. To me that’s delivering.”

Still, expectations on him and the team are high. After all, this is the first time an S-League club will be playing at the National Stadium since it reopened its doors in 2014.

Tampines’ big pre-season moves, in which they also signed eight members of the now-disbanded LionsXII, means that progress to the AFC Cup knockout stage is not so much a target as it is a prerequisite.

But the pressure is something Pennant, one of Liverpool’s standout performers in their 2007 Champions League final defeat by AC Milan, relishes.

The winger, who has three league goals to his name so far, said: “It’s better to play in a stadium like this. It feels more like playing in Europe. In all fairness it’s easier for me to play here. I’m confident. I’ve prepared well all week and honestly I can’t wait for the game to start.”

While the spotlight will be on him, Tampines’ leaky defence – an irony considering coach V. Sundramoorthy’s lauded defensive nous – will need to hold up, especially since Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan has signalled his intentions to attack.

Tampines boast the dependable Izwan Mahbud in goal but lapses in concentration had seen the Stags concede three penalties in their last two AFC Cup games.

Sundram said: “We’ve been making mistakes in defensive areas, that’s our main problem. We need to stay focused. But if the boys are willing to fight and run for everything, and play to our game-plan, then we can get a win.”

In the reverse fixture at the Selayang Stadium, where Pennant did not feature, Tampines won 1-0, and Sundram said this will give his team a psychological advantage.

On his star man, the coach said: “For Jermaine, (handling the occasion) will be a piece of cake.

“I can see that he has the desire to go out there and entertain the crowd and at the same time do well for the team.

“Now he’s fully fit, ready and eager to go. That’s very important for us.”

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Sundramoorthy to keep faith in Fazrul Nawaz vs. Geylang

Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy believes there is no need for the alarm bells to start ringing despite watching his side fall to back-to-back defeats in the past week.

The Stags made a brilliant start to 2016 after going unbeaten in their first nine games in all competition, before suffering their first loss last Tuesday when they went down 2-1 to Philippines’ Ceres La Salle in the AFC Cup.

They then failed to bounce back on Saturday as they returned to S.League action, with title rivals Albirex Niigata (S) recording a 1-0 triumph at the Jurong East Stadium.

Next up for Tampines, is a third successive away game against Eastern Derby rivals Geylang International at the Bedok Stadium on Thursday, with both sides having played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in the previous meeting at the start of the season.

While his side are not having the best run of form, Sundram insists the way they have played in the last few matches, gives him no cause for concern.

“If we played badly and lost then I would agree that we should have been beaten,” he said, reflecting on their past two defeats.

“‘Sometimes you have a bad game and there’s nothing you can do but let it be.

“But I thought [in the last two games] we played well, we had many crosses and shots on goal, and then to concede three penalties in two games and lose is obviously disappointing.

“I believe we could have gotten something out of the games but there’s nothing we can do but move on and now look forward [to the game against Geylang].”

Despite boasting an attack brimming with talent like former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, ex-Kedah marksman Billy Mehmet and Singapore international Fazrul Nawaz, Tampines have only netted once in their last three outings.

For all his endeavour, Fazrul was arguably the biggest culprit as he spurned a host of gilt-edged chances against Balestier, and also missed a golden opportunity to equalise late on against Albirex.

Nonetheless, Sundram insists he has not lost faith in the 31-year-old striker, who has been the S.League’s top local scorer in the past two seasons with 28 goals for Home United and Warriors FC.

“It’s normal for this to happen to strikers,” added the legendary Singapore attacker. “Last year, everything he touched ended up in the back of the net.

“Now, he’s going through a spell but he will turn it around.

“He has enough experience and the right mentality to bounce back and come back stronger.”

After Thursday’s clash with Geylang, Tampines are on the road again as they fly to Bangladesh to take on Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in the AFC Cup.

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