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Hougang to meet Geylang in Plate final
Bala's men eye silverware after setting up final date with Geylang
HOUGANG UNITED 2
(Fumiya Kogure 45, Iqbal Hussain 80)
BALESTIER KHALSA 1
(Mirolsav Kristic 56)
If they do pull it off, it will not mean they have ended their barren run in terms of silverware, but Hougang United coach K Balagumaran does not care.
He believes that winning The New Paper League Cup Plate competition will give his players a taste of what it is like to win something, and spur them on next season.
Hougang, who have not won a trophy in their six-year history, are one hurdle away from glory after they defeated Balestier Khalsa 2-1 in their Plate semi-final clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
Hougang will square off against Geylang International in the Plate final on Saturday.
Geylang sank Warriors FC 1-0 in the other semi-final yesterday, courtesy of a late strike by Mark Hartmann.
"Just one more step and we can make history," Bala said, after Iqbal Hussain's late strike sent the Cheetahs through.
"I saw more from players like Na'iim (Ishak) and Khairul (Jumahat) today compared to the first game of the tournament and guys like Iqbal (Hussain) have also stepped up.
"This gives me a good selection headache for the final. We performed well and deserved to win today."
Hougang were actually slow to get off the mark in the first half and had to withstand wave after wave of Balestier attacks.
Last year's runners-up could have opened the scoring after just 60 seconds when Raihan Rahman misjudged the flight of a pass, allowing Fadhil Noh to run through on goal, but he could only fire straight at Ridhuan Barudin.
Balestier continued to create chances but were unable to find the back of the net.
The Cheetahs struck a sucker-punch with the last kick of the half.
Japanese playmaker Fumiya Kogure showed why he picked up the S.League Player of the Year award last year with an inch-perfect free-kick near the edge of the penalty box that left Naqiuddin Nodin rooted to his spot.
They nearly doubled their lead after the interval, but were denied when skipper Jozef Kaplan's shot off Naqiuddin's weak punched clearance was blocked spectacularly on the line by Fadli Kamis in the 55th minute.
Hougang were punished seconds later when substitute Hazzuwan Halim lofted in an inviting cross for Miroslav Kristic to guide home.
The 26-year-old almost turned provider in the 72nd minute when his cross found Jamil Ali in the penalty box, but the latter's ferocious shot drew another excellent save from Ridhuan.
It all went downhill for the Tigers from there.
Substitute Gary Loo picked up a facial injury in the 78th minute.
Coach Marko Kraljevic had already used up all three of his substitutes and was forced to carry on with 10 men.
Iqbal, who had been a menace all game with his willingness to take on players, profited two minutes later when he cut inside his defender before rifling home.
Balestier's misery was compounded when Fadli was sent off in the 89th minute for two yellow cards and Hougang hung on for the win.
"I think I should go to church more often," Kraljevic joked, after the match.
"I feel we should have won the game and, after we scored the equaliser, I brought on Jamil (Ali) and Gary (Loo) to try and change the game. But we couldn't do it and the same thing happened to us against Geylang and Home, so I think we were unlucky.
"But we just have to move on and focus on the Singapore Cup and S.League from here."
- HOUGANG: Ridhuan Barudin, Khairulnizam Jumahat, Yusiskandar Yusop, Delwinder Singh, Faliq Sudhir (Nurhilmi Jasni 64), Nur Na'iim Ishak (Huzaifah Aziz 74), Raihan Rahman, Afiq Noor (Samuel Benjamin 86), Fumiya Kogure, Jozef Kaplan, Iqbal Hussain.
- BALESTIER: Naqiuddin Nodin, Fadli Kamis, Nurullah Hussein, Hanafi Salleh, Zulkhair Mustaffa, Syafiq Zainal (Hazzuwan Halim 51), Tan Danial Farhan (Gary Loo 70), Ho Wai Loon, Smajovic Sadin, Fadhil Noh (Jamil Ali 70), Miroslav Kristic.
- TNP Man of the Match: Ridhuan Barudin (Hougang)
Skipper Farra has faith in Stags' reserves
Skipper Farra backs young reserves to shine against fancied Japanese outfit
ALBIREX NIIGATA v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Tampines Rovers stalwart Mustafic Fahrudin has enjoyed a stellar career in local football.
He has five Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League winners' medals on display at home (2005, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013).
There have been two wins, in the RHB Singapore Cup - in 2005 and 2006.
He was also a key figure in the national teams that lifted the regional AFF Suzuki Cup in 2007 and 2012.
But the 35-year-old has never lifted The New Paper League Cup.
Ahead of his side's semi-final tonight against the tournament's defending champions Albirex Niigata, Farra, as he is popularly known, is gunning to break that duck.
"This is a good opportunity for us," he said.
"We are already in the semi-final. Now, we just need the extra push."
He is well aware the Stags walk out onto the Jurong East Stadium pitch tonight as heavy underdogs.
Albirex have been leading the way this season and the Japanese club lead the S.League with eight games left.
The Stags also go into the game without seven national players, who are on duty with the Lions, who take on Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
To make matters worse, big-name signing Jermaine Pennant is struggling with an ankle injury, and will likely miss the game, while midfield spark Shahdan Sulaiman (leg fracture) and striker Sufian Anuar (hamstring) are definitely out.
But Farra is unperturbed.
"Yes, it's a big challenge," he admitted. "But we go into this game without any pressure because we are missing more than half our team.
"Also, the young players who have come in have done really well.
"I like the way these young guys train, their ideas, their touches, their bravery... I have a good feeling."
Stags striker Billy Mehmet agreed.
"To be honest, when this competition started, I wasn't expecting too much," said the 31-year-old English targetman.
"But all that went away after 45 minutes in our first game, when we were leading (Hougang United) 4-0!
"I knew what our (other) players could do, and now even the young boys coming in have stepped up to the plate.
"I was surprised, just like everyone else... But now we're in the semi-finals, I won't be surprised if we go all the way."
Tampines edged the last meeting between the two teams 1-0, exactly 33 days ago in an S.League meeting, but that was with a full complement of players.
Albirex coach Naoki Naruo pointed to Mehmet as the Stags' dangerman, and White Swans defender Kento Fujihara insisted the Japanese side would not underestimate their opponents.
"Tampines still have some experienced players and their technique is good," said the 24-year-old centre back.
"It's very difficult to deprive them of the ball. All our players need to work extra hard.
"The result (defeat last month) didn't affect me mentally... and we are not out for revenge.
"But we know tomorrow is a very important game, so we will do our best with a strong spirit."
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas was in bullish mood.
"It will definitely be tough," he said.
"We have to give Albirex due respect. But that's it.
"We have a semi-final to play, and it can go either way."
Now we’re in the semifinals, I won’t be surprised if we go all the way.
— Tampines’ Billy Mehmet
Get set for a superhero showdown
Warner Bros and Marvel Studios brought their best to San Diego Comic-Con, but whose line-up wowed us?
They came, and they conquered.
Warner Bros and Marvel Studios brought out their big guns at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, the annual gargantuan fanboy event that has become a platform for Hollywood movie studios to get people excited about their upcoming projects.
Fans were not disappointed as the two major studios went for broke, with Warner first out of the gate with three heavyweight DC movies - Wonder Woman, Justice League and Suicide Squad.
It also has the highly anticipated Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, along with fan favourite The Lego Batman Movie.
Over in Marvel's court, president Kevin Feige promised plenty to come and he was not kidding.
Their offerings included Doctor Strange, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and even a brief tease of Thor: Ragnarok.
So who will reign supreme in this showdown between Marvel and DC superheroes?
WONDER WOMAN (JUNE 2017)
Marvel may have edged ahead with its superb range of superhero movies. But kudos to DC for giving us the first real superheroine in the flesh.
Gal Gadot was the silver lining as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in the disastrous Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The Israeli actress wowed again in the trailer of her standalone movie, simply titled Wonder Woman.
How can one woman be so elegant yet has no issues taking down an entire army? The scenes of her brandishing a sword, or wielding her Lasso of Truth, or stopping bullets with her shield - in a word, just amazing. Oops, that's two words.
CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)
So what if Marvel announced that Oscar-winner Brie Larson will star as Captain Marvel in its first female-centric superhero flick?
Carol Danvers, an air force pilot who becomes Captain Marvel after her DNA is fused with that of an alien, may be one of Marvel's most popular female characters, but her story is not as sexy as Wonder Woman's.
And, let's face it, Larson lacks the same X-factor as Gadot.
VERDICT Sorry, Marvel. DC wins this round.
TIME FOR LAUGHS
JUSTICE LEAGUE (NOV 16, 2017)
Director Zack Snyder's gloomy Batman V Superman was DC's answer to Marvel's The Avengers, but it failed to live up to the hype. His upcoming Justice League is much lighter. Ben Affleck's Batman, as depicted in the trailer, no longer grunts but delivers lines such as, "I heard you can talk to fish" to the ultra-serious Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa).
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (MAY 4, 2017)
Director James Gunn revealed that Kurt Russell will be joining this sequel as Ego the Living Planet, who happens to be Star-Lord's (Chris Pratt) daddy. In the comics, Ego is literally a living planet and is one of the weirdest villains in the Marvel universe.
VERDICT Let’s bear in mind that Justice League is still helmed by Snyder, who’s not noted for his sense of humour. Guardians Of The Galaxy is the left field in the Marvel cinematic universe, so this is going to be one interesting ride, especially after the mega success of the first movie. Money’s on Marvel.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (NOV 17)
Led by Eddie Redmayne, this movie is a long-awaited return to the Harry Potter universe, telling the story of how wizard Newt Scamander (Redmayne) tracks down an array of magical creatures in 1920s New York.
DOCTOR STRANGE (NOV 3)
Doctor Strange is a "left-turn in the Marvel Universe", dealing with the supernatural rather than technology and mythical beings.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the titular doctor, whose surgical career ends after his hands are injured in a car accident. He finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who opens his mind to all things magical. Of course, there's a bad guy who needs to be stopped.
VERDICT It’s been five years since the last Harry Potter movie. Will Potterheads take to a new series without the likes of Harry and company? Reactions to this and the Doctor Strange movie have been equally ecstatic, which is to say the jury is still out.
EZRA MILLER IN JUSTICE LEAGUE
There is no debate that Miller's Barry Allen aka The Flash is the best thing in the Justice League trailer. Clearly the comic relief of the movie, Miller nails the part of the energetic tech guru who also happens to have the gift of super speed.
TOM HOLLAND IN SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Marvel's new incarnation of Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, stole the limelight in Captain America: Civil War. Cheers erupted at Comic Con when Holland went on stage to reveal how his Spidey flick will focus on teenage problems such as girls and homework, as much as on his superhero feats.
VERDICT Both are charmers. Miller scores higher in the looks department, with women already going gaga on Twitter about his character. But Holland is a talented actor and is headlining a beloved franchise. Sorry, Miller. Blame it on Snyder if things go south.
'Retailers must revamp'
Earlier this month, Mr R. Dhinakaran became the new president of the Singapore Retailers Association. TNP speaks to the veteran businessman about the challenges faced by retailers in the current economy
Challenging times are ahead for retailers, with some of them, even major brands, closing shop and pulling out of Singapore, said Mr R. Dhinakaran, who is in his 60s.
The managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, which manages brands such as Levi's, Aldo, and Converse, was appointed the new president of the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) after Ms Jannie Chan stepped down early this month.
"I'm taking over at the worst time... and I hope to protect and safeguard the interests of retailers," he told The Straits Times after the appointment.
Mr Dhinakaran, who has been in retail for more than 30 years, believes the local retail industry needs to make major reforms for Singapore to retain its title as a "shoppers' paradise".
He said: "The retail sector has evolved greatly. Many larger retailers have suffered as a result of over-expansion in recent years and are currently downsizing.
"The industry we see today is a much more challenging one than what we saw previously. Essentially, retailers need to revamp, readjust and retool."
The retail sector has been gloomy since 2013, but what makes this dip different from previous years is that it is not caused by a particular crisis, such as the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, and the 2001 and 2007 recessions.
"The industry is currently affected not only by external factors, but also by fundamental structural problems," said Mr Dhinakaran.
He highlighted the tight manpower market as one of the key issues, with fewer younger Singaporeans joining the retail sector. Another is high rental costs, with real estate investment trusts (Reits) that run many shopping malls here, pressuring the mall managers to raise rents for higher returns.
He said: "Going forward, this is the long-term reality and retailers must consider their next moves carefully. How can we meet these structural challenges in a more positive manner?
"These issues are new, and we have never faced them before. We must strategise for the long term with these challenges in mind".
The retail experience has changed through the years, and mindsets need to change with it, said Mr Dhinakaran.
"Many years ago, a salesman would guide the customer through the whole purchasing experience, and even follow up by offering after-sales service," he said.
"Now, customers come into the store knowing more about the products than the retail staff, because they have done their research online."
He added that retailers needed to adapt to these changing patterns, and turning to e-commerce and technology was one way.
E-COMMERCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Retailers can't run away from e-commerce and technology, said Mr Dhinakaran.
Those with brick-and-mortar stores have to find a way to go online, and vice versa for those who have just an online presence.
"With the advent of e-commerce, successful retailers must have a hybrid system.
"They must exploit their brick-and-mortar stores, leverage on technology, and expand on e-commerce platforms with click and collect options," he said.
Mr Dhinakaran believes that constantly gathering feedback about retailers' struggles in these challenging times will help.
"One of my goals as SRA president is to have frequent feedback sessions for retailers. We will take their feedback to the Government and relevant agencies to seek assistance," he said.
These could include labour issues, productivity matters, and research on the retail industry's practices.
He also encouraged more small and medium-sized enterprises to join the SRA to leverage on industry support and knowledge sharing.
"Now, customers come into the store knowing more about the products than the retail staff, because they have done their research online."
- Mr R. Dhinakaran