Thursday, June 21, 2012

Opponent Watch: Geylang United

Tonight's clash with Geylang United has been unceremoniously billed as the "bottom of the table clash". Starting off the season brightly, the Rams have seen themselves slip from 3rd place in March to their present 12th position and only Geylang have it much worse than us.

However, the Eagles are level on points with us and they have a game in hand. This  means that Woodlands has to leave Bedok Stadium with nothing less than a victory. If we were to fall at the Eagles' den, that would condemn us to our 6th consecutive loss, and perpetuate our current barren run of 11 matches without a win. To put it simply, this is a fixture that the Rams cannot afford to lose.

When these sides met on 19th February, strikes from Hussein Akil, Goh Swee Swee and Moon Soon-Ho gave the Rams a 3 -1 victory at Woodlands Stadium. Goh's magnificent strike would no doubt still be playing in the minds of Rams' fans, and the speedy winger will be looking to add to his tally of 2 goals tonight.

Moon and Akil, one of the best partnerships in Woodlands' recent history so far.
Photo Credit:  Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Woodlands' best bet of scoring would rest squarely on the shoulders of "Super Moon" Moon Soon-Ho. The prolific striker has 7 goals to his name this season, including one against Kanbawza FC in the RHB Singapore Cup, and he would definitely be hungry for more. The former Super Reds star has scored 15 times for the Rams since joining Woodlands during last season's mid-season transfer window, and after appearing 31 times in our yellow kit, the Korean hitman averages a goal every two games, a wonderful record for a team that's second from bottom. Moon has scored in the last two matches against Kanbawza and Courts Young Lions (what a beauty that was!) and he could very well hit three on the trot against a porous Geylang defence that has leaked in 29 goals this season.

Much of Woodlands' attack could be attributed to the telepathic understanding between Moon and his strike partner, Hussein Akil. The Aussie-Lebanese may not be racking up the numbers in terms of goals (he has 2 so far) but his spirited running and assists have ensured that Moon has a steady string of ammo up upfront.

The return of Woodlands protégé Neil Vanu would also boost our chances in attack and the promising young striker will be looking to prove himself after being left mostly on the bench during his time with the Young Lions. Couple that with the hardworking pair of Goh Swee Swee and former Geylang man Guntur Djafril plying the wings and we look all set to go for this one.

Josef Kaplán, top scorer for the Eagles with 4 goals.
Photo Credit:  Geylang United Football Club

However, all is not lost for the Eagles. Woodlands has failed to win in the last 5 matches while Geylang boasts a better record of losing 2, drawing 2 and winning 1. In fact, they fought to a hard earned draw against SAFFC, at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, no less, in their last round and actually came from 2 - 0 down after 25 minutes to equalise on 78 minutes and send the Ultra Eagles into rapture. Woodlands, on the other hand, have been pretty unlucky during the last two matches. The Rams really should have won the game against a 10 men Tanjong Pagar, while the puzzling decisions from referee Abdul Malik left much to be desired. Both Daniel Hammond and Aloysius Yap were left reeling as their respective efforts against the Jaguars and Young Lions rebounded off the goalpost at Woodlands Stadium.

Geylang United also recently announced the signing of Serbian forward Stefan Milojevic (source) and the former Birmingham youngster will be looking to form an effective partnership with Geylang star Michael King upfront. King impressed with his mazy dribbles at Woodlands in February, and our defence will need to pay extra attention to the damage these two can cause up front. Geylang's top scorer, Josef Kapláň (4 goals), must also be tightly marked for this one.

We want to see this tonight!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The last time these two sides met here in Bedok, Geylang came away with a 1 - 0 victory courtesy of a solitary Jung-Hee Bong goal which settled the game in the 59th minute. If we were to dig further into the history books, the record seems even more dismal for Woodlands as the Eagles recorded victories in Bedok Stadium in 2010 (1-0) and even bigger victories in 2009 (4-0) and 2008 (4-1). The two sides drew here in 2007 in a match that ended one all and the last time the Rams tasted victory in Bedok was on 19 April 2006, where we ran out 3-1 winners. Laakkad Abdelhadi scored a brace in that one while Agu Casmir topped the icing on the cake with a goal in between Laakkad's strikes.

Well, for our boys, I say let's rewrite the history books tonight by notching our first win at Bedok since 2006. The Eagles are not playing well this year and this is out chance. Go for it!

Out of 25 matches played head to head, the Rams have won 13 while the Eagles fare slightly worse at 12 wins. Expect plenty of goals at the Bedok Stadium as these two sides will be fighting a real battle to see whether the Eagles stay rooted to the bottom, or climb above the Rams.

Be there at Bedok Stadium to soak up the action tonight!

And to our boys, Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Friday, 21th June, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Bedok Stadium

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome Home, Neil

The Black Sheep is pleased to announce that Navin Neil Vanu has completed his transfer to Woodlands Wellington Football Club following his tenure with the Courts Young Lions.

The 22 year old striker was called up to the Young Lions squad in 2011 after putting in a string of good performances for the Rams in his 2 seasons with the senior squad. During the Young Lions' SEA Games campaign, Neil played in 2 international matches during the SEA Games and scored a wonderful header against Cambodia.

Neil can operate as a striker or a winger and has impressed many with his nifty footwork and blazing pace. He has been assigned the number 34 jersey and may make his first appearance for the Rams this coming Thursday against Geylang United.

Neil celebrating his first international goal against Cambodia.
Source: The New Paper

 He was spotted in the stands in Woodlands' home match against Courts Young Lions but was not cleared to play as his transfer had not been completed at that time yet.

We look forward to Neil's contributions to aid the Rams in their bid to climb up the table this second half of the season.

Reaction: Woodlands vs Young Lions

Despite an magnificent early Moon Soon-Ho strike which gave us a glimmer of hope to finally break our eleven match winless streak, the Rams found themselves on the losing end once again as the Courts Young Lions clamoured back in the final 13 minutes to score two goals to reverse the score in their favour.

Super Moon celebrating after his wonderful strike on 14 minutes.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The match seemed to be headed for the same scoreline when these sides met in February but it was not to be as Young Lions substitute Nazrul Ahmad Nazari slotted home the equalizer off a square ball from Sirina Camara in the 77th minute.
Sirina Camara was essential in both defence and attack for the Young Lions.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Two minutes later, the Woodlands bench was forced to change the shape of the squad after midfield enforcer, Han Yiguang, was harshly sent off after a second bookable offence. The referee left question marks in everyone's heads as several tackles that flew in from the Young Lions had gone unpunished.

Shamsurin was full of running when he came on.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

 The numerical advantage proved to be crucial for the Young Lions as Sherif El-Masri, clearly the best Young Lions player on the pitch that night, sprinted down the left before passing the ball to Faris Ramli, who had the simplest task of tapping the ball in to tip the score in the Young Lions' favour.

Aloysius Yap's shot crashed off the crossbar in the dying minutes.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Despite going down, the Rams displayed the "Never Surrender" attitude that had been sorely missing in the first half of the season and kept plying forward despite having the odds stacked firmly against them. Daniel Hammond was deployed as a striker and the midfield pushed their line higher into the Young Lions' half. The gamble nearly paid off when Rams' substitute Aloysius Yap crashed his shot against the crossbar, giving the Young Lions a huge scare. The scorcher could have ricocheted anywhere, but unfortunately the shot rebounded down and away from the goal line and was quickly cleared by a panicky Young Lions defence.

A frustrated Daniel Hammond after the match in a wonderfully taken shot.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The final score surely does not do any justice to the Rams, who kept battling on and had the Lions share (pun not intended) of the possession. We can also take heart from Moon's brilliantly taken goal, created by the spirited Goh Swee Swee who kept the pressure on the Young Lions defence, as the Korean continues his goalscoring form following his penalty against Kanbawza FC in our last competitive game. Super Moon has 7 goals to his name so far, and statistically speaking, the prolific striker averages a goal every two games, having scored 14 times in 29 appearances for the Rams since his mid-season transfer last year.

Rams' "new boy" Neil Vanu was also spotted in the stands but the young striker was unable to play as his mid-season transfer had not been completed yet. Neil had previously played for the Rams from 2010 to mid 2011, when he was snapped up by the Courts Young Lions in view of the 2011 SEA Games. What a sensation it would have been if he had come on to score against his former club but alas, it was not to be. We will probably see him in action when the Rams take on Geylang United next on 21st June and we certainly hope they can carry their battling attitude forward to that encounter at Bedok Stadium.

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

For more photos of the match, please check out Andrew's album here.

Rams and Young Lions fans (and 1 Albirex fan) convene during half time.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Opponent Watch: Courts Young Lions

It has been a month long break away from top flight action for all our Rams and I am sure that everyone is raring to go in the opener of the S-League's second half where we play the energetic Courts Young Lions at the Woodlands Stadium this Friday.

Courts Young Lions coach, former international Robin Chitrakar.
Photo Credit:  Courts Young Lions

Despite their poor start to the season where they clocked 6 defeats and 1 draw, the Young Lions seemed to have turned their season around in April with that impressive 5 - 0 thrashing of Tanjong Pagar. That victory in Queenstown Stadium seemed to have reclaimed some belief in the squad, and they began to churn out the results that slowly pulled them out of the slump.

With crucial wins over Gombak United and Hougang, as well as a draw against Albirex Niigata (S), the Young Lions have risen above Woodlands to 10th spot with 11 points after 13 matches played, while the Rams lie in 12th spot.

The departure of defender Abdil Qaiyyim Mutalib to the LionsXII squad, plus the talk of more players being drafted over, seemed to have minimal impact on unsettling the Young Lions and they could potentially climb even further up the table if they continue playing they way they are right now.

Jonathan Toto has been sensational so far.
Photo Credit:  Courts Young Lions

One reason why the Young Lions have been able to bounce back from the cellar can be attributed to the sensational form of  Jonathan Toto. The prolific striker has 6 goals to his name already and he looks set to meet or exceed the 12 goals he scored for Etoile FC last season. His impressive performances for the Young Lions earned him a callup to the S-League All Stars squad which played against the FirstXI and the 22 year old Frenchman is on his way to becoming a true S-League legend.

Super Moon in action against Courts Young Lions in February.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

When the LionsXII project was initiated, critics were quick to point out that the Young Lions would have a tough time in the league considering that they have lost a large majority of their players to the Malaysian Super League. However, that doesn't seem to be the case as the Young Lions aren't faring too badly at the moment.

Top scorer Toto is usually flanked on both sides by wingers Benjamin Kristofferson-Lee and Sherif El-Masri. The Rams must pay extra attention to the tricky El-Masri, who is already well known in the league for his agility, mazy runs and playmaking skills.

Sherif El-Masri, the Canadian wizard.
Photo Credit: Courts Young Lions

Despite the heavy presence of foreign influence within the Young Lions squad, Robin Chitrakar also has at his disposal various local players with immense potential. Defender Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman will lead the Lions backline in a couple of years from now, while midfielder Faritz Abdul Hameed and Shahfiq Ghani could give any S-League player a run for their money. Faritz even featured in the S-League All Stars alongside Toto.

Benjamin Kristofferson-Lee takes on Duncan Elias.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The last time these two teams met in February, it was a close contest which was eventually settled by Moon Soon-Ho's 49th minute penalty. What is your guess on the score and the winner this time round?

Be there at Woodlands Stadium to check out all the action this Friday!

Match Information
Date: Friday, 15th June, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Woodlands Stadium