Blessed Tan gives back to society
Geylang come up short
Needing a five-goal win, they win by three and miss a hatful of chances
GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL 4
(Mark Hartmann 6, Shahfiq Ghani 68, Gabriel Quak 83, Daniel Bennett 91)
HOME UNITED 1
(Ken Ilso 50)
They needed to win by five goals to wrest an AFC Cup spot from their opponents.
In the end, Geylang International beat Home United by only three - but also struck the woodwork three times.
The Eagles' 4-1 win over Home at the Bedok Stadium last night saw the visitors hang on to a fourth-place finish in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, and a place in the continental AFC Cup competition next season.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani said: "We had enough chances, but today is just not our day. We could have scored three or four more."
Hasrin set his side up in an ultra-attacking 3-4-3 formation, deploying centre back Yuki Ichikawa as a targetman up front, surrounded by no less than five forwards.
Filipino striker Mark Hartmann gave the home side a dream start after just six minutes, when his shot from the halfway line caught Home goalkeeper Eko Pradana in no man's land.
The early goal, plus some aggressive challenges from Geylang, rattled Home. They almost conceded twice in quick succession soon after, but Shawal Anuar's shot rocked the upright and a wild clearance by Home defender Shamil Sharif cannoned into his own goalkeeper and safely wide.
The Eagles continued to put pressure on the Protectors in the second half, and Hartmann's free-kick was pushed onto the upright by rookie shot-stopper Eko at full stretch.
But a minute later, Ken Ilso eased the pressure on Home when he broke through the Geylang defence and slid the ball home to level the score.
Geylang were undeterred, and Shawal missed another golden opportunity when he shanked his shot over from just three metres out.
Shahfiq Ghani restored the Eagles' lead in the 68th minute with a shot from 25 metres that left the goalkeeper rooted.
There was still time for Sahil Suhaimi to see his shot tipped onto the post by Eko, before Gabriel Quak and Daniel Bennett scored two late goals.
But time simply ran out for the home side.
Home coach Aidil Sharin admitted he was relieved to hear the final whistle.
"When they scored the early goal, it was a boost for them, and you can see they wanted it," he said.
"We had our own chances too, but when you don't take them, you get punished.
"But I cannot fault my players. Even though they were under pressure, we still tried to play good football. We didn't just come here and park the bus.
"Having said that, yes, we have the (AFC Cup) spot, but there's work to be done for next season."
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER MATCH:
- Warriors FC 5 Hougang United 1
Cubs on the cusp
Golden era beckons
NBA season set to get underway with all eyes on Warriors and their new superstar
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS v SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his new-look team are relishing the pressure entering their 2016-2017 NBA campaign opener against the San Antonio Spurs this morning (Singapore time).
The Warriors' blockbuster off-season move for Kevin Durant has made the already formidable-looking side an even more daunting proposition as they set out to regain their NBA Finals crown.
Kerr, however, said his team of All-Stars welcomed the burden of expectation that comes with being able to field a team with Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the line-up.
The coach suggested the pressure could even motivate his team towards surpassing last term's record-breaking unbeaten start to the season, when the Warriors went 24-0.
"We all have pressure," Kerr said. "But that's a good thing. The alternative is, hey, maybe we can win 30 this year, instead of 25.
"A lot of the teams in the league have that, teams that have gone through rebuilding stuff, and they're trying to get where we are.
"So we're in a really enviable position, we know how lucky we are to be together with this group. We understand the responsibility that comes with it.
"But that's fine, that's a good position to be in."
A sell-out crowd will pack Oakland's Oracle Arena to watch the Warriors' debut of Durant, one of the league's top three players who has rapidly blended into the Golden State set-up since his arrival from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"He still has some learning to do. But he has really picked up on just kind of the way we play. There's a little chaos but there's some pattern to the chaos and I think he's embracing the chaos, for sure," Kerr said.
"I think he's really adapting well and fitting in well. But it's only been a few weeks, so the little nuances, there's still stuff that he's figuring out."
Durant, meanwhile, has quickly made himself at home in the Bay Area, delighting fans after video footage emerged of him dancing in a mosh pit at a Kanye West concert in Oakland on Sunday.
Kerr laughed about his star acquisition's weekend exertions.
"I cut practice short a little bit today because I saw he got a great workout last night," Kerr joked, adding that he was happy to see Durant quickly assimilate to life in the city.
"He has been into the city, he has been around Oakland, he's trying to get to know his surroundings as well as possible," Kerr said.
"This is a beautiful part of the world and a great, interesting place to live and he's having fun and getting used to everything and enjoying himself."
Durant, meanwhile, said he had no hesitation about heading to the West concert.
"I was happy I was able to go," he said, laughing off suggestions that he breached an unwritten rule against celebrities in the mosh pit.
"I'm not a celebrity anyway," he laughed, adding that he had not been concerned for his safety.
"Nah - I'm covered man. I'm covered by a higher power no matter what happens." - AFP.
There’s a little chaos but there’s some pattern to the chaos and I think he’s embracing the chaos, for sure.
— Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr on how new signing Kevin Durant is adapting to the team
BY THE NUMBERS
Kevin Durant averaged 28.2 points per game last regular season, the third highest in the league. In post-season, he was the leading scorer, averaging 28.4 points in 18 games. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 25.1 and was eighth overall.
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The Keys to victory
American swings and moves, and notches up her first win in Singapore
Powerful swings and very quick feet seemed to do the trick for Madison Keys, as she swept aside Dominika Cibulkova in their Red Group encounter in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global last night.
The 21-year-old sixth seed either sent balls whizzing through the Cibulkova defence, as the Slovak was forced to scamper all over the Indoor Stadium court in vain.
Keys, the first American to make it to the WTA Finals after the Williams sisters since 2005, won 6-1, 6-4 to keep her semi-final hopes alive.
Almost 24 hours earlier, Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova played out a marathon contest.
Czech Pliskova won 6-2, 6-7 (7-4), 7-5 in a match that ended past 1am.
Talking at her post-match press conference last night, Keys was asked if she had any thoughts of a similar encounter entering her game yesterday.
She said: "That definitely went really long and I watched a lot of it.
"I wasn't really thinking about it during my game."
Referring to her win specifically, after her opening loss to Simona Halep, Keys wore a huge smile and said: "That was a little bit better than the first round.
"Definitely really happy with how I kind of turned things around.
"I think I did a lot of things a lot better."
Addressing her loss, Cibulkova said: "I just couldn't get into the rhythm. It was one of those days when she was playing really good and I was fighting myself on the return."
Although she has lost her two opening matches, Cibulkova still has a chance of advancing if she beats Halep in their final group match tomorrow.
"It's frustrating, of course, because I lost two matches that I wished I could win, but I still have a third chance," Cibulkova said.
"It's a big challenge for me. It's my first time playing here. But I can still go into the semi-finals."
That was a little bit better than the first round. Definitely really happy with how I kind of turned things around.
— Madison Keys on beating Dominika Cibulkova
Kerber feeling comfortable at last
World No. 1 dominates Halep in second set and seems set for semis
The Lion City has previously not been a happy hunting ground for Angelique Kerber.
But things are looking up this week.
Last night, she took a big step towards the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global after a confident display saw her cruise to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Simona Halep.
Having failed to reach the semi-finals in three previous appearances at the WTA Finals, Kerber now needs to win only one set in her final Red Group tie against Madison Keys tomorrow to seal her progress.
The current world No. 1 found herself in a similar situation last year, only to be eliminated following a straight-set defeat by Lucie Safarova.
Her bad memories of Singapore appear to be on the brink of being banished, as she expressed how much she has been enjoying her time here.
Asked by The New Paper what has been different this time around, she replied: "I think a lot has changed.
"First of all, I'm here as No. 1, so that has changed… I'm really enjoying this year playing on this court with the fans.
"It's a new situation, so it's a new challenge for me as well. I'm always trying to improve my game but I'm just really, really trying to enjoy this a little bit more than last year."
All in all, it was an excellent outing for her as she was also officially crowned the WTA's year-end No. 1 with a trophy presentation, becoming only the 12th player to claim the achievement.
HUFFED AND PUFFED
After toiling to a three-set win over Dominika Cibulkova in her opener on Sunday, another struggle appeared on the cards as she huffed and puffed before claiming the first set 6-4 over the world No. 4 Halep.
But, in a real show of dominance, the 28-year-old took it up another notch in the second set and her Romanian opponent just had no answer.
"It's always tough to play against Simona (but) I think I was moving good and I was going for it when I had the chance," added Kerber.
"I have much more confidence right now because I know how to win very big, tight matches and I believe much more in my game than 12 months ago, especially after Singapore a year ago."
Despite the loss, Halep remains in with a shout of making the last four for the second time after reaching the final in her 2014 debut.
A straight-set triumph over Cibulkova tomorrow will seal her berth in the semis, although she could be eliminated if she drops a set and Keys beats Kerber in two.
Regardless, Halep acknowledges she will have to produce a far more polished display in order to stand a chance.
"Yeah," was the visibly dissatisfied 25-year-old's monosyllabic reply, after being asked if it had just been a bad day at the office.
Later, she elaborated: "Maybe I didn't finish the important points and I missed a lot today with my forehand. She (Kerber) deserved to win, so I take it and I'm looking forward to continue in this tournament.
"(Against Cibulkova,) I have to be aggressive, do my style, and just be there for every point."
I’m really enjoying this year playing on this court with the fans.
— Angelique Kerber