Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reaction: Gombak United vs Woodlands Wellington

It is always never easy to travel west to play Gombak in Jurong West, especially when this match would be their first game on home soil in front of their fans. While a win against Gombak would have significantly boosted our positioning in the league table, clear-cut opportunities proved hard to come by for our forwards due to the stifled midfield area.

The Yellow Army goes to Jurong West.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Rams' tactics were somewhat similar to the one utilised against Balestier, and that was to absorb the pressure from Gombak and attack on the counter. A thigh injury to Duncan Elias meant that Vincent Lee had to be deployed in the left back position, while the vastly experienced Farizal Basri and the determined Han Yiguang started in place of Armanizam Dolah and Guntur Djafril, both of whom were rested on the bench for this game, probably in anticipation for the Hougang encounter that follows this match.

Gombak substitute Hafiz Rahim went closest to breaking the deadlock at the 90th minute mark but his snapshot rocked the Woodlands crossbar, while the rampant Gombak attack in the final few minutes gave a scare to the Rams but the defence was equal to the task of keeping the Bulls out to hang on for a goalless draw.

Vincent Lee started in left back and had a tough battle against Gombak's Samuel Benjamin.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In a game where the Rams had limited chances moving forward, our flying Korean Moon Soon-Ho had a good chance to score when he latched on to a great through ball by Hussein Akil but Gombak custodian Zaiful Nizam closed him down before he could shoot. Goh Swee Swee also had a good chance on goal in the 57th minute but he could not keep his rising shot from going over the bar.

Hussein Akil was positioned deeper in midfield than he usually was and balls were played forward either though small punts or to the sides for our wingbacks to flank the opposition.

The introduction of wingback Edward Tan, who came on for Vincent Lee in the 66th minute, was one of the highlights of the match. The left back was a joy to watch and he almost gave us the lead not once, but twice, from two free kicks in almost the same spot in the dying minutes of the match.

Edward Tan coming on for Vincent Lee in the 66th minute.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Although it is still too early to draw comparisons of his cultured left foot with the likes of the legendary Lee Man Hon, who played for the Singapore Lions back in the Malaysia League in the 90s, or more recently, LionsXII left back Saiful Esah, the 27 year old sure makes one wonder why his former club, Tampines Rovers, decided to release him from their squad for the current season. This gem of a player would add a reasonable amount of depth to our squad, especially when the reliable Duncan Elias may be doubtful for the next couple of games.

The performance of the dependable Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, who seems to have regained his confidence in between the sticks, and the alert Daniel Hammond and imposing Fabien "Fari" Lewis also helped to ensure that we would leave Jurong West with a draw to arrest our slump down the table from the losses in our last three matches, despite the Gombak onslaught in the final 20 minutes.  Many in the stands were worried that we would be hit by a sucker punch from Gombak but the defence did just enough to keep the Bulls' attack at bay.

Edward Tan's promising free kick.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In the 78th minute, tempers flared when Gombak's centreback - Tunisian-Singaporean Walid Lounis - got into a heated exchange of words with the Woodlands officials when he attempted to retrieve a loose ball near to the Rams' bench. It seemed that Lounis had used vulgarities on Woodlands' team manager, Matthew Tay, sparking off a reaction from the officials. On the flip side, Lounis claims that it was the Woodlands bench who cast the first rock on him. We leave it to the reader to decide who was the instigator on this matter, but from various sources, we understand that Lounis doesn't exactly have a bleach-clean mouth wheneevr he steps onto the pitch. Besides, it doesn't make any sense for our bench to start going all Vinnie Jones on Lounis when it was still a goalless stalemate at that point in time.

Having said that, we do understand that players may be caught in the heat of the moment and utter something that they would regret later. We definitely do not condone such language on the field and hope to see much less of such cases in the league.

Assistant Gaffer Clement Teo reacting to the Lounis incident.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

This match also witnessed one of the lighter moments of the S.League when referee W Ravisanthiran had to stop play to allow the Jurong West groundsmen to enter the pitch to repair a patch of grass which was dislodged during the first half. Well, at least we don't have floodlights going off in the middle of the game. Not in this season, anyway.

Groundsmen tending to the dislodged turf.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

After the results from the week's round of matches, the Rams are now placed in 9th position and we remain one point ahead of the Bulls. It is also good to see that the team had more or less recovered from the flu bug that had bugged (forgive the pun) most of our players last week.

Traveling Black Sheep ensuring that their voices are being heard by the Rams on the pitch.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

We now look forward to the next encounter, when our Rams finally travel home to Woodlands Stadium to play Hougang united in only their second official home game of the season, the other being a 3 - 1 win over Geylang in February.

In an encounter billed as the "noisiest game in the S.League", the match will see the Black Sheep and the Hougang Hools attempting to outsing and outchant each other. It will definitely be an exciting encounter.

Look out for our opponent watch on Hougang - coming soon to a computer / laptop / mobile device screen near you!

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

Wherever your heart lies, we are still friends after 90 minutes (± extra time lah)
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

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