The first half of the S-League season has ended and with the second half of the season due to resume soon, OPOD writers Teng Kiat and Nigel Chin have come together to give their verdicts on the teams’ performances so far.
In the final part of this three-part series, we review the performances of Hougang United, Singapore Armed Forces, Tampines Rovers, Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington.
Season so far: It has been a rather turbulent season for the Cheetahs of Hougang United this season, after having briefly topped the table in early on in the campaign. Backed by the impressive performances of new Croatian duo Stanislav Vidakovic and Ante Barac, as well as livewire Canadian winger Jordan Webb, Nenad Bacina’s men looked set to be one of the surprises of the season.
But things quickly began to unravel. They ended the first half of the season with six consecutive defeats, a run which has seen them plunge downwards in the rankings, as they now sit 11th in the table, only three points ahead of Woodlands and Geylang.
It has been a little baffling as to what caused this swift descent from grace, but Hougang have the quality to turn things around. They were unlucky in a couple of the defeats in that losing streak and Bacina has claimed that his team are working hard to get back to winning ways.
They did sign off with a victory over Tanjong Pagar on penalties in the Singapore Cup before the break and with the likes of Webb and Barac in the team, they should fare better when the season resumes.
What to improve on: With a paltry fifteen goals scored, the Cheetahs could certainly do with having more bite in attack. Guinean forward Mamadou Diallo has not been firing on all cylinders this season, only netting thrice so far, the same as centreback Vidakovic. They are also too reliant on Webb to produce the goods, and will do well to add some creativity and variation to their attacking play.
Singapore Armed Forces (SAFFC)
Season so far: Possessing one of the most talented squads on paper, there were hopes that the Warriors would finally end their two year title drought this season. However, those chances have all but vanished after one of their worst-ever starts to a season.
For a team with the most experienced backline, the Choa Chu Kang-based side has been leaky all season. They have been unable to deal with pacy attacks, with centre back pairing Daniel Bennett and Bah Mamadou look to be shaky when dealing with counter-attacks.
At the other end however, things have at least been decent so far. Joint-fourth in terms of goals scored, Mislav Karoglan has picked up where he left off last year, banging in seven already. Both new Japanese signings Shimpei Sakurada and Tatsuro Inui have impressed as well, with Sakurada chipping in with four strikes and Inui scoring three from freekicks.
The form of Fazrul Nawaz though should be worrying for the Warriors’ management. After a quick start to the season, his form has tailed off badly towards the mid-season break, which has resulted in him shunned by the National Team selectors.
What to improve on: Defending, especially on the break. Richard Bok has already sought to shore up the leaky defence by bringing in Croatian centre-back Marin Vidosevic. While ‘Vida’ has looked impressive in friendlies against Chuo University and Johor FC, the S-League is a much tougher challenge and he remains unproven.
The Warriors need to play with more creativity too, as their passing a tad too predictable at times. The signing of playmaker Aliff Shafaein from Tanjong Pagar will provide just that, but how fast he can gel with his teammates remains to be seen.
Season so far: The defending champions have recovered well from a bad start to the season to climb up to third. While they are the only team to take points off Brunei DPMM at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium, they do find themselves six points off the top.
Nothing much has gone wrong for the Stags, with evergreen striker Aleksandar Duric still scoring for fun and Jamil Ali becoming something of a saviour, coming off the bench to pop up with crucial goals during the late stages of games.
The return of Ahmad Latiff has brought a much needed attacking thrust to their attack after the disappointing Davor Piskor failed to deliver on a constant basis, despite all the hype surrounding his signing in pre-season.
With their AFC Cup campaign already over, Tampines will definitely look to mount a title challenge against leaders DPMM, after taking a much-needed rest during the mid-season break.
What to improve on: Their ability to dominate games from the start. Time and time again, they were required to come from behind to win. While that showed their resilience, it takes a toll on their energy levels. With teams more than willing to sit back, the Stags have been required to dig deep to come out with the end product more often than they would have liked to.
Tanjong Pagar United
Season so far: They started off the season with a decent draw at Hougang, but the Jaguars then lost the next five on the trot to languish at the bottom of the table with the Young Lions. A subsequent defeat of Geylang provided brief respite, as the losses continued to pile up, but a late flourish of three consecutive wins saw them rise dramatically up the table.
If the 0-5 thumping by the Young Lions at home was the nadir of the first half of the season for them, then it seems like they learnt their lessons well from that match. Terry Pathmanathan managed to rally his charges to respond by securing victory in the last three matches before the break, the most notable of which was a stunning triumph over last season’s runners-up Home United.
It seems like Tanjong Pagar have got their season back on track, as they now sit eighth in the table. Skipper Delwinder Singh has performed admirably so far, despite the pressure that must come with being captain at such a young age, even being deployed to good effect in a defensive midfield role. Hafiz Osman provides the steel at the back, while Japanese forward Takaya Kawanabe is the club’s leading light upfront with six goals so far.
The loss of playmaker Aliff Shafaein to SAFFC is a big blow, but the Jaguars will still be optimistic about the second half of the season when it restarts.
What to improve on: With Takaya accounting for six out of the club’s ten league goals, the main problem for the Jaguars is not hard to identify. The Korean duo of Lee Joo Sang and Jang In Jun have not set Queenstown Stadium alight, while Serge Souchon has flattered to deceive as well. They will do well to find proper wingers as replacements on the flanks, as well as providing better support for Takaya.
Season so far: Joint-bottom with Geylang in the rankings, things have gone pear-shaped for the Rams after starting the season with two wins in a row. They have since picked up a miserable two points from the next ten games, with the lack of quality showing despite battling hard.
Moon Soon Ho has been one of the few bright sparks and the Woodlands top-scorer with five league goals seems to have forged a promising partnership with fellow import Hussein Akil, while Daniel Hammond has battled manfully to hold the fort in defence. Goh Swee Swee, one of the more gifted players in the squad, has struggled to find his feet this season though and Woodlands will hope that he and the rest of his teammates can step up if they are to avoid being wooden spoonists again.
What to improve on: Simply put, everything. They have scored the least number of goals in the league, only managing to find the back of the net nine times in twelve games, while they possess the third-worst defensive record. There needs to be better support and ammunition from midfield, and mistakes at the back have to be cut down if they want to start picking up points.
Visit OPOD's S-League Mid-season Review Part 1
Visit OPOD's S-League Mid-season Review Part 2