Stipe Plazibat eyes SPL title after joining Lion City Sailors
Striker bagged nine goals in six games for Hougang before Covid-19 disruption
A slow start to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) may have rocked Lion City Sailors' title hopes, but they have reignited their hunt for glory with the signing of striker Stipe Plazibat.
The 31-year-old's move from Hougang United last month for an undisclosed fee is the biggest signing during the coronavirus-enforced break, which is set to end on Saturday.
Plazibat was in red-hot form, scoring nine goals in six games in all competitions, before the SPL was suspended on March 24.
"I'm very happy to move to a club who suit my ambition, as I want to win everything," Plazibat, who is eyeing the SPL title and top scorer award, told The New Paper yesterday.
The Sailors are Singapore's first privatised football club after billionaire Forrest Li and his tech firm Sea took ownership of two-time champions Home United in February.
In a bid to win the SPL title in their debut season, the Sailors have signed top national players like goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman and winger Gabriel Quak.
However, the Sailors suffered a dismal start to their league campaign, following a 4-0 thumping by fellow title-contenders Tampines Rovers and a 1-1 draw with Tanjong Pagar United, who are making their return to the SPL after sitting out the last five seasons.
But their latest acquisition, who is on a 1½-year deal, could be the spark to kick-start the Sailors' spluttering engine. Especially with Plazibat returning to his old stomping ground, where his familiarity with his teammates have helped eased his assimilation with the squad.
"When I arrived, I already knew most of the players, which made my transition very easy," said Plazibat, who played for Home in 2017.
Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar concurred with his new signing, and also highlighted Plazibat's importance to his already star-studded side.
"Stipe is a very important player for us, he has a lot of experience and he is a proven goalscorer," the 53-year-old Australian said of Plazibat, who has amassed 54 goals in 70 SPL matches.
"He's obviously done well for Hougang and I expect that form to continue.
"(Since his arrival) I've had absolutely zero complaints, he has been fantastic, very, very good professional and he has been great with the group."
Meanwhile, Tampines may be leading the SPL table after four games, but they are not resting on their laurels.
The Stags have added experience to their squad, with the signing of 36-year-old defender Baihakki Khaizan in June on an 18-month deal and 35-year-old striker Fazrul Nawaz this month for the rest of the season.
Fazrul, who has not been with a club since the end of last season, will be playing in his 16th SPL campaign. He has scored 115 league goals, 16 of which were for the Stags from 2016-18. He has also scored 13 goals in 86 caps for the Lions.
Further up in the Lions appearance list is Baihakki with 137 caps. The centre-back, who left Thai League 1 outfit PT Prachuap in April, has played for clubs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Another notable signing during the break was midfielder Safirul Sulaiman, who returned to Geylang International from Tampines.
The 28-year-old, who spent two seasons with the Eagles from 2016 to 2017, was part of the Malaysian Super League-winning LionsXII side in 2013 and has been capped eight times by Singapore.
SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Oct 17 (Sat)
- Tampines Rovers v Hougang United (5.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
- Tanjong Pagar United v Balestier Khalsa (5.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Oct 18 (Sun)
- Lion City Sailors v Geylang International (5.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
- Young Lions v Albirex Niigata (5.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)
* All matches to be played behind closed doors. Watch live on 1Playsports or Singapore Premier League's Facebook pages