Singapore Football

Top marks for DPMM in TNP's review of S.League season

SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ and DAVID LEE file their report cards for all 10 S.League teams, following the completion of the 20th season

CHAMPIONS 
BRUNEI DPMM

Top marks for...

Simply being the best team in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League this season. They won the most games (15), lost the fewest (five), and scored the most goals (48) along the way.

Their front three of Rafael Ramazotti, Paulo Sergio and Azwan Ali were a delight to watch.

Need extra lessons in...

Holding their nerve. Despite being in the driver's seat heading into the final third of the season, Steve Kean's men endured some shaky moments and lost two of their final four games, which meant the title race went down to the final day.

Also need to develop more quality local players.

Top student: Boris Raspudic

The no-nonsense Bosnian defender (photo) 
rarely received plaudits, but excelled in the heart of DPMM's defence all season.

Grade: A


2 TAMPINES ROVERS

Top marks for...

Recovering from a mid-season slump to take the title race to the wire.

Need extra lessons in...

Consistency. Their longest unbeaten streak in the S.League lasted just five games.

Coach V Sundramoorthy has a reputation for forging hard-to-beat teams and he must live up to that next season if he wants to win his first S.League title.

If the Stags succeed in luring the bulk of the LionsXII over, Sundram, who guided them to the 2013 Malaysian Super League crown, will be handling men he knows intimately.

Top student: Firdaus Idros

The winger (in yellow) is not one of the Stags' bigger names but delivered more often than some of his more reputed teammates.

Grade: B-


3 ALBIREX NIIGATA

Top marks for...

Becoming the first team to win both the RHB Singapore Cup and The New Paper League Cup.

The White Swans emerged with an unprecedented 100 per cent record, winning all 10 games in this season's cup competitions.

Need extra lessons in...

How to win the main prize. Touted as possible S.League winners before every season over the last few years, Albirex always come unstuck.

This year, they finished seven points away from winners DPMM and must examine a winless run of five games from August to October, when they dropped 11 points.

Top student: Fumiya Kogure

The classy playmaker (photo) won the Player of the Year award and it's hard to disagree because of his creative abilities and eye for goal.

Grade: A-


4 BALESTIER KHALSA

Top marks for...

Punching above their weight. Coach Marko Kraljevic must be given praise for putting together another competitive side despite having a smaller budget than when he led the Tigers to a surprise Singapore Cup triumph in 2014.

Need extra lessons in...

Keeping cool heads. The Tigers collected nine red cards, the highest this season, and the red mist has cost them points in the league, as well as progression in cup competitions.

Top student: Zaiful Nizam

The goalkeeper (photo) has been one of the top performers this season and was rewarded with a long-overdue first cap for Singapore in June.

Grade: B


5 WARRIORS FC

Top marks for...

Not standing in the way of their best player, Nico Velez, from accepting a megabucks move to the lucrative Indian Super League, where he is now starring alongside several former international stars.

It came at a price, though; they won just two of 11 games after the Argentinian left on Aug 20 and finished 15 points behind DPMM.

Need extra lessons in...

Defending. For last year's champions to ship in 51 goals in 27 games - the league's worst - is mind-boggling.

Top student: Fazrul Nawaz

The Singapore international (photo) was probably the only bright spot for the Warriors. He joined almost a month after the start of the league, but racked up 18 goals to finish as the second-highest scorer.

Grade: C-


6 HOME UNITED

Top marks for...

Giving regular playing time to promising youngsters like defenders R Aaravin and Shahrin Saberin and forward Stanely Ng (photo).

Although the Protectors finished outside the top half, they reached the RHB Singapore Cup final and were close to winning it too.

Need extra lessons in...

Winning with kids. While coach Philippe Aw's philosophy is admirable, as is the club's patience, for a side of their proud tradition, the Protectors are expected to win at least one of the three trophies on offer next season.

Top student: Sirina Camara

Except for a four-match ban for disciplinary issues, the Frenchman has been solid across the defence, on the wings, anywhere he has been deployed this season.

Grade: C+


7 HARIMAU MUDA

Top marks for...

Showing they are no pushovers. No team in the league could truthfully say they were confident of three points before clashes with Razip Ismail's men, who claimed noteworthy wins over Albirex, Home (twice) and Geylang International (three times).

Need extra lessons in...

Picking a No. 1. Coach Razip Ismail rotated shot-stoppers Farhan Abu Bakar, Ramdhan Hamid (photo) and Ilham Amirullah throughout the season, and none among the trio played more than 10 games.

Top student: Amirul Hisyam

The skipper was a driving force in his side's midfield, providing leadership and a solid presence.

Grade: B-


8 GEYLANG INT'L

Top marks for...

The unlikely end-season resurgence when the bottom side took 11 out of 15 points to finish eighth out of 10 teams. Beating deposed champions Warriors FC 6-0 to end their season on a high was a highlight, as was the emergence of 24-year-old local forward Shawal Anuar, who scored four league goals in his first full season.

Need extra lessons in...

Defending. In Bruno Castanheira and Jozef Kaplan, the Eagles have forwards capable of hitting double digits (12 goals each). But they were undone by a defence that conceded 44, the second-highest number of goals.

Top student: Jozef Kaplan

After being deployed out of position at Negeri Sembilan and Tampines, the skipper returned with a vengeance and was always a goal threat.

Grade: C-


9 COURTS YOUNG LIONS

Top marks for...

Bouncing back after a demoralising SEA Games in June.

Even after they lost some key players to the LionsXII when the S.League resumed in July, Juergen Raab's charges won six of their remaining 20 matches. Before the SEA Games, they had lost five of the first seven matches, and won only one.

Need extra lessons in...

Scoring. They found the net only 30 times in 27 games and looked threatening going forward only after Canadians Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri rejoined after the SEA Games.

Top student: M Anumanthan

Be it in central defence or in midfield, the 21-year-old has been a real leader with his battling qualities. Has also showed a touch of class with a wonderful top-corner goal to sink giants Tampines in September.

Grade: C


10 HOUGANG UNITED

Top marks for...

Off-the-field initiatives such as a scholarship for young footballers who may play for other clubs. It's tough to find a positive on the pitch, though. The Cheetahs have sparkled in spurts, but were unable to hold out for wins.
Need extra lessons in...

Stability. It can be tricky to judge whether they should be given more time. But perhaps the club should have kept star striker Geison Moura and reliable defender Igor Cerina after their strong showings in 2014.

Top student: Nurhilmi Jasni

The Hougang skipper scored five goals and is the second-highest scoring Singaporean in the league behind 18-goal Fazrul Nawaz.

Grade: C


LEADING SCORERS

21 goals Rafael Ramazotti (Brunei DPMM)

18 goals Fazrul Nawaz (Warriors)

16 goals Miroslav Kristic (Balestier Khalsa)

15 goals Rodrigo Tosi (Tampines Rovers)

13 goals Mateo Roskam (Tampines Rovers)

12 goals Paulo Sergio (Brunei DPMM)

Bruno Castanheira (Geylang Int’l)

Jozef Kaplan (Geylang Int’l)

11 goals Ken Ilso (Home United)

s.leagueREVIEWSBrunei DPMMtampines roversalbirex niigataBalestier KhalsaWarriors FCHome UnitedHarimau MudaGeylanghougang