The Monkey: Albirex 2 SAFFC 2

Posted on August 19, 2011

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The Monkey navigated his way past the uncles and pundits propping their feet up at the Jalan Besar Stadium to bring you these notes from the Singapore Cup quarter-finals: Albirex 2 SAFFC 2 (Albirex win 5-4 on pens).

SAFFC's Daniel Bennett, Razaleigh Khalik and Bah Mamadou (l to r). Photo: safwarriors.com

1. SAFFC have a soft underbelly. With an experienced backline and a solid midfield core on paper, you would expect the Warriors to be one of the most stable teams around. Yet their defensive record is the the poorest of the top five in the S.League.

Theoretically Rhysh Roshan Rai and Goran Subara form a formidable barrier in midfield, yet Albirex opened the scoring on Thursday night by slashing through the middle like it was nobody’s business. Roshan spent most of the game being bypassed by the quick movement of the Japanese and Subara was a bull charging after a mouse in a china shop, with predictable results – he was fortunate not to receive  a second yellow card in the second half.

2. Local players stagnate at SAFFC. The club is one of the best-run in the S.League, comfortable financially and with a set-up many envy. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that local players make up the supporting cast at Choa Chu Kang. The Warriors’ four successive S.League titles between 2006 and 2009 owed a huge debt to the attacking triumvirate of Therdsak Chaiman, Aleksandar Duric and John Wilkinson; now they rely on Mislav Karoglan, Ivan Jerkovic and Taisuke Akiyoshi.

Current Lions aside, the Warriors have collected a string of ex- and fringe national players like Mustaqim Manzur, Razaleigh Khalik and Hafiz Osman. When he first emerged in the early 2000s, Mustaqim was a bright spark with his inventive wingplay. On Thursday night he was always on the periphery of things, a state that he has been in for a long time now. Rightback Hafiz on the other hand was in another universe when Albirex broke down his flank for their second goal. One gets the impression that a number of players in the Warriors’ camp are happy to coast along, content with a secure environment and never quite hitting the upper limits of their potential.

3. Watching Albirex is like watching a school game. The Japanese team are a pleasure to watch with their push and run style. The soundtrack to their games however is reminiscent of school sports days –  the cheers of ‘Let’s go Albi, let’s go’ are always led by young children and women. For some reason, the men among the Albirex supporters are pretty quiet, even for the S.League. Perhaps they prefer to show their support visually – there were more than a few sporting the White Swans’ S$98 black and orange Singapore Cup jersey.

4. Kari and Mendy are soulmates.  Mislav Karoglan isn’t just competing with Home United’s Frederic Mendy to become the S.League’s top goalscorer – the two are vying to be the league’s top drama queen as well. Once in each half Karoglan collapsed to the turf and rolled around, the first time clutching the back of his head and the second his face. Both times the Bosnian got up after he realised referee W. Ravisanthiran was not going to award a freekick or show a card to an Albirex player.

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Posted in: s.league