Warriors FC atop S.League after nervy win
HOME UNITED 2
(Song In Young 72, Fazli Ayob 87)
WARRIORS FC 3
(Nicolas Velez 5, 61, Miroslav Pejic 40)
Warriors FC reached the summit of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League after a 3-2 win over Home United at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
But they were on a knife's edge until referee W Ravisantharan blew the final whistle.
Having led 3-0 thanks to a Nicolas Velez brace and a Mirolsav Pejic strike, Alex Weaver's men conceded two goals in the final 18 minutes of the game, resulting in the nervy finish.
When The New Paper pointed out how his side made it difficult for themselves, Warriors coach Weaver quipped: "We haven't made it easy for ourselves all season. But our players were excellent tonight.
"We have been a little complacent at times, but it's the same for some other teams recently.
"It's been a very interesting season."
Warriors now sit atop the S.League, one point ahead of Brunei DPMM, who have played a game less.
The eight-time S.League winners have a chance to extend that lead to four points if they beat Tampines Rovers on Thursday, two days before DPMM's next league match (against Balestier Khalsa).
Weaver agreed that a win over Tampines could give them a huge psychological advantage over the Bruneian side.
"It's a chance (to gain a mental edge), absolutely," he said. "But we have to get over the hurdle and beat Tampines first.
"We know we have to focus on ourselves and recover well, and get back to it when we play them."
Last night, Velez got his team off to a great start when he slotted home after just five minutes.
Home poured forward in search of an equaliser and dominated most of the first half, but got hit by a sucker punch when Pejic doubled the Warriors' lead five minutes before the break with a well-placed shot from just outside the box.
Argentinian Velez made it three when he rounded Shahril Jantan easily in the 61st minute for his 21st goal of the season.
But Home defender Song In Young pulled a goal back when he took advantage of an uncharacteristic error by Warriors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, before Fazli Ayob ghosted in to fire a second for the Protectors three minutes before the end.
It was too little, too late for Home, though, and coach Lee Lim Saeng admitted that their title dream was over.
Said the South Korean: "We are five points behind with just six points to play for, and just a draw is enough for DPMM (to mathematically end Home's chances) because of our goal difference.
"So I think there is no hope for us for the league title.
"But I'm not ashamed of tonight's result. We conceded too easily, but I don't blame my players, as they tried their best."
- HOME: Shahril Jantan, Masrezwan Masturi (Ahmed Fahmie 69), Song In Young, Kwon Da Kyung, Juma'at Jantan, Lee Kwan Woo, Noh Rahman, Yasir Hanapi, Indra Sahdan (Fazli Ayob 63), Bruno Castanheira, Fazrul Nawaz (Izzdin Shafiq 63)
- WARRIORS: Hassan Sunny, Ismail Yunos (Zulfadli Zainal Abidin 69), Daniel Bennett, Marin Vidosevic, Irwan Shah, Tom Beattie, Kevin McCann, Shi Jiayi, Hafiz Rahim (Hafsyar Farkhan 78), Miroslav Pejic, Nicolas Velez (Agu Casmir 72)
- TNP Man of the Match: Kevin McCann (Warriors)
Bok out to make amends
National Under-21 coach Richard Bok will be hoping to banish the memories of August's Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament, when he leads his team at the Under-21 Vietnam Newspaper Cup.
Two months ago, the former Warriors FC coach led the Under-21 team on his first regional assignment since taking over on a part-time basis in May.
But the team lost all five matches, conceding 19 goals and scoring just two.
The make-up of the 18-strong squad then - 16 players were from FAS developmental teams - also raised eyebrows.
But this time round, almost a third of Bok's 20-man squad come from S.League clubs.
The squad will also be bolstered by players who have already earned caps for the national team, namely captain Delwinder Singh and forward Adam Swandi.
Three-time S.League Coach of the Year Bok, who will be assisted by Nazri Nasir, said: "We are going into this tournament with the intention of doing our very best.
"This squad will certainly be looking to make a good account of themselves, and we hope to reach the knockout stages."
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are in Group A. Singapore play Vietnam tomorrow and Thailand on Tuesday.
Group B consists of U-21 teams from Malaysia and Sydney, and the U-19 team of Vietnamese club Hoang Anh Gia Lai.
- Goalkeepers: Shahul Rayyan (CYL), Zharfan Rohaizad (Singapore U19 Cubs)
- Defenders: Delwinder Singh (CYL), Sufianto Salleh (Home United), R Aaravin, Shahrin Saberin, Dhukhilan Jeevamani, Zakir Shamsudin (all U-19 Cubs), Taufiq Muqminin (NFA U18)
- Midfielders: Samuel Benjamin (LionsXII), Christopher van Huizen (Tampines Rovers), Nur Na'iim Ishak (CYL), Ishafiq Naim (Home), Jonathan Tan (Geylang International), Fareez Farhan (U-19 Cubs), Zulfadhli Suzliman, Iqram Rifqi (both NFA U-18)
- Forwards: Adam Swandi (CYL), Nur Hizami Salim (Home), Cameron Bell (Tampines).