Tampines' Afiq aims to silence DPMM striker Ramazotti
Tampines defender Afiq confident he can keep DPMM's Ramazotti quiet
BRUNEI DPMM v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 8.15pm, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium)
He was the S.League's top striker last season with 21 goals.
Brunei DPMM targetman Rafael Ramazotti's 1.93m frame and his strength in the air, in particular, made him a handful for local defenders as the Wasps dramatically lifted the title on the final day of the season.
Ahead of DPMM's tasty S.League clash with Tampines Rovers in Bandar Seri Begawan tonight, Stags defender Afiq Yunos is confident he can keep the Brazilian hitman quiet and help his side get a result.
Afiq (above), who stands at 1.86m, played the last two seasons with the LionsXII and has had his fair share of duels with powerful strikers in the Malaysian Super League like Marlon James (1.87m) and Dickson Nwakaeme (1.86m).
And he is relishing the challenge posed by Ramazotti.
"This is the first time I'm playing against him, so I'm looking forward to it," Afiq told The New Paper over the phone yesterday.
"I will approach matches where I have to face opponents like him the same way I did against Selangor (in the AFC Cup this season) and their striker Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh (who stands at 1.85m).
"(Wleh) is also a big, tall, strong striker who is very good in the air.
"Against strikers like that, I have to be firm, give hard but fair challenges and win as many battles as I can, especially early on, to let them know I'm there."
Ramazotti has shown signs he might be suffering from "second season syndrome", finding the net just twice in five games so far, with one of those goals a penalty.
But Afiq knows better.
"Everybody knows (Ramazotti) is the man to watch, and we must make sure we don't give him time or space to shoot or hold the ball up for his teammates.
"Hopefully, we can get a positive result, so we can stay near the top of the table."
The match is between the reigning league champions and a Stags' side rated as favourites to lift the title this season.
Tampines' long-serving wide man Ismadi Mukhtar believes there is more to DPMM than just the threat Ramazotti poses.
"Afiq has been playing well the last few games... (and) against Selangor, he competed well and kept (Wleh) off the scoring sheet," said the 32-year-old.
"But against DPMM, it's never about Ramazotti alone.
"They also have Paulo Sergio and Azwan Ali, who are good players too, and we must also be wary of them.
"The focus is always on us defending and attacking as a team. Teamwork is the key."
Tampines have a strong record against DPMM in Brunei, losing only once in their last five visits to the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium.
And they are looking for another positive result to bring back to Singapore.
Said Ismadi: "DPMM are always tough opponents... (and) it's always a battle over here at Brunei.
"But we go into every game with same winning mentality.
"To me, it's just about being secure defensively and taking the chances we create."
Behe's goal sparks Warriors win over Albirex
WARRIORS FC 2
(Syaqir Sulaiman 47, Jonathan Behe 78)
ALBIREX NIIGATA 0
"Oh Behe, Behe, how were we supposed to know?
"Oh Behe, Behe, that you would score five in a row!"
With his scraggly beard, Warriors FC striker Jonathan Behe might not exactly be a fan of 90s pop princess Britney Spears.
But he might just start humming her 1999 hit song nowadays - with a tweak, of course - considering he can't seem to stop scoring.
The 27-year-old Frenchman struck for the fifth Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League game running, as the Warriors stunned leaders Albirex Niigata 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
His goal took him top of the S.League scoring chart.
Behe, who joined Warriors from Thai club BEC Tero Sasana, did not expect such a streak.
The former Montpellier forward said after the game: "No, for sure I did not. But of course, I am happy.
"I worked hard for this and I hope this (run) continues for me and my team."
His coach, Jorg Steinebrunner, however, was not exactly over the moon with his striker's all-round contribution.
He said: "After last week's match (against Balestier), I said, 'Behe scored, but...'. This week, it's the same. I expect everyone not just to decide to work forward, but also backwards.
"Defending starts from the front. Everyone needs to chip in. If all 11 players do that, we get a performance. And that's what I want."
Behe was cool with his coach's criticism.
"Of course, every player can do better with more concentration and application," he said.
"For me, when I go on the pitch, I just want to help my team win. If I score, that's better because it means a higher chance my team will win."
The Marseille-born striker effectively ended Albirex's resistence 12 minutes before the end.
A burst of pace left White Swans defender Atsushi Shirota for dead, before Behe thumped a low shot to beat Yosuke Nozawa in goal.
Earlier, just two minutes into the second half, Syaqir Sulaiman had put Warriors ahead with a header off Shaiful Esah's outswinging corner.
The win took Warriors up to third, level on points with Albirex but with an inferior goal difference.
Albirex hardly threatened a Warriors defence marshalled by the likes of Madhu Mohana and skipper Zulfadli Zainal Abidin.
It has been 281 minutes since a White Swans player scored a goal, and coach Naoki Naruo admits he is worried.
"I'm very disappointed today," he said. "The players did what they were supposed to and we controlled the game, but we conceded two goals and lost.
"We need to work on our finishing and score goals."