TNP's S.League report card
With the S.League set to resume on Friday, SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ reviews the first half of the season and hands each team their report card
Class monitor: Kento Nagasaki. Top scorer Atsushi Kawata gets the plaudits for his 10 goals, but it is midfielder Nagasaki (left, No. 10), who is equally adept as a deep-lying playmaker or as an orthodox No. 10, who keeps the team ticking.
Top marks for: Simply being the best team in the league. They've scored the most goals (28), conceded the least (six) and kept nine clean sheets in 12 matches. They're also the most disciplined team, picking up just nine yellow cards.
Need remedial lessons in: Nothing, really. Although some have suggested it is only a matter of time before Albirex suffer a blip in their season.
Class monitor: Yasir Hanapi. The midfielder (above) is one of the "smaller" names in the squad but has consistently performed, earning himself a national call-up.
Top marks for: Maintaining their title challenge despite having to juggle AFC Cup commitments, where they are now in the quarter-finals, as well as off-pitch distractions like the club's cash-flow problems that surfaced in April and losing coach V Sundramoorthy to the national set-up.
Need remedial lessons in: Scoring. In Billy Mehmet, Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb and Jermaine Pennant, Tampines have the firepower to blow other teams away.
But, apart from the opening two games where they plundered seven goals, the Stags have scored three goals only once more.
Class monitors: Ken Ilso and Azhar Sairudin. Danish striker Ilso (above) has been unplayable at times, while Azhar is arguably the best local player in the S.League.
Top marks for: Playing tippy-tappy football. Coach Philippe Aw deserves credit for getting his side to play some great football, with Ilso and Azhar ably aided by the likes of Faris Ramli, Song Ui Yong, and marauding fullbacks Juma'at Jantan and Sirina Camara.
Need remedial lessons in: Waking up sooner. The Protectors endured a six-game winless run at the start of the season.
If they had won just a couple of those, they'd be breathing right down Albirex's neck.
Class monitor: Syazwan Buhari. The former national Under-23 custodian (above) has been in top form.
Top marks for: Their positive approach. Geylang usually try to play cavalier, attacking football - sometimes to their own detriment - and you rarely can label their matches boring.
Need remedial lessons in: Not making things hard for themselves. They have conceded late goals in five of their 13 matches, costing them six points.
Class monitor: Azwan Ali. While Brazilian striker Rafael Ramazotti has flopped and Portuguese winger Paulo Sergio has blown hot and cold, local boy Azwan (above) has shone.
Top marks for: Sticking to their ethos. The S.League's reduction in foreign imports from five to three dealt a huge blow to last year's champions, with Steve Kean having to turn to inexperienced Bruneian players to replace Croatian defender Boris Raspudic and Irish midfielder Joe Gamble. But Kean still tried to play the kind of attacking football that got them the title.
Need remedial lessons in: Winning at home. Last year, DPMM lost just twice in 13 matches in Bandar Seri Begawan. This year, they've already lost three in eight. In fact, those three defeats came during a favourable run of six straight home games from March to April.
Class monitor: Fumiya Kogure. The S.League's reigning Player of the Year (above) has sparkled for the Cheetahs. Goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid and midfielder Raihan Rahman deserve honourable mentions.
Top marks for: Their determination. Hougang have come from behind to win or draw one third of their games.
The most impressive was the 1-1 draw with Tampines Rovers, despite playing with a man short after defender Wahyudi Wahid was sent off in the first half.
Need remedial lessons in: How not to concede early. In three of their four losses in the S.League, Hougang conceded goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Class monitor: Kento Fukuda. The peroxide-blond centre back (above) is the most consistent of just a few Warriors players who have emerged with credit this season.
Top marks for: Being the only team to beat Albirex Niigata, who they stunned 2-0 in March. There hasn't been much else to shout about for the club.
Need remedial lessons in: Stability off the pitch. Warriors appointed two head coaches in pre-season: one left before the season started and the other was sacked less than halfway through.
Class monitor: Zaiful Nizam. The goalkeeper and skipper (above) has become their talisman over the last four seasons.
Top marks for: Posting wins over Hong Kong side Kitchee and Maldivian team New Radiant in the AFC Cup? Seriously, there's very little for Balestier to be happy about in the S.League this season, where rightback Fadli Kamis is their joint-top scorer with just two goals.
Need remedial lessons in: Scoring. The Tigers have the league's most pitiful attack, with just seven goals in 12 games.
Here's hoping Marko Kraljevic has unearthed another Balkan gem in new striker Niko Tokic.
TNP FILE PHOTOS
GARENA YOUNG LIONS
Class monitor: Hami Syahin. The 17-year-old midfielder (above) is one of many teenaged rookies in the team, yet he seems to grow in confidence with each week.
Top marks for: Not letting their heads drop. Despite not having senior player and injured star striker Khairul Amri for most of the season, the boys have shown they are up for a fight and have given a few clubs some real scares.
Need remedial lessons in: Defending, in general. While it is no surprise the Under-21 developmental team have the worst defensive record (32 goals shipped in 12 games), a few of those goals resulted from avoidable individual errors or simply miscommunication.