Monday, July 16, 2012

Opponent Watch: Tampines Rovers

The Rams have a tough and busy week ahead when they meet top half opposition in high flying Tampines Rovers at the Woodlands Stadium tomorrow evening, followed by Balestier Khalsa on Friday at the same venue.

The last match between Woodlands and Tampines ended up in a pivotal 4-0 win for the Stags, a crucial result for Steven Tan's men as they bounced back from prior losses to Albirex Niigata (S) in the S.League and Kitchee (Hong Kong) in their AFC Cup Group F campaign, ending their poor early season form. Playing in front of their adopted fans at the Clementi Stadium for the first time, the Stags put in a wonderful performance and notched their first win, setting the tone for sense of things to come from that point on. The encouraging result seemed to have worked wonders for Tampines as they haven't looked back since.

Tampines captain Aleksandar Đurić leading the stags out of Clementi Stadium for the first time.
Photo Credit:  Yeo's Great Eastern S.League

The Stags are now in 3rd place and seem to have a good chance in retaining the S.League title this season, and they will definitely be looking to displace the White Swans at the expense of Woodlands, whose winless run was further perpetuated by their loss to Albirex Niigata (S) last Wednesday.

There is no doubt that Singapore international Aleksandar Đurić poses the greatest threat for the Rams. The 42 year old striker scored a hat trick against Woodlands in March, and his goal after just 30 seconds sure gave us one heck of an uphill battle.

It should be an interesting aerial battle between Woodlands and Tampines.
Photo Credit:  Yeo's Great Eastern S.League

Đurić boasts a scary head to head personal record against the Rams - he has scored in each and every one of the last 5 matches between Woodlands and Tampines in the S.League. He managed to score hat tricks in three of those matches, a phenomenal record by any standard, and he will seek to continue this fine record at Woodlands Stadium. When the Stags came to visit last season, Đurić netted a hat trick to cap off a 4-0 win for Tampines.

There is no doubt about it. Đurić needs to be tightly marked! Woodlands will have to rely on the towering presence of our twin towers, Daniel Hammond and Fabien "Fari" Lewis, to shut off the compelling Tampines attack.

Jamil Ali has a knack for creeping into pockets of space and must be closely watched.
Photo Credit:  Yeo's Great Eastern S.League

Tampines also poses several attacking options in the form of foreign players Gligor Gligorov and Sead Hadžibulić, Singapore international Ahmed Fahmie, as well as former Woodlands players Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin and Jamil Ali. The latter is having a sensational season and many are still scratching their heads and wondering what he has to do to get a call up to the National Team.

And then we have Noh Alam Shah. "Along", as he is known colloquially, is perhaps the player fans want to see back in action the most. The former international spent 3 and a half years away in Indonesia, played 67 matches during his sojourn with Arema Malang and Persib Bandung, and scored a total of 27 times. He would probably be making his comeback debut against Woodlands after rejoining Tampines after his final game for Persib Bandung on 11 July.

On paper, Tampines probably has one of the most exciting teams in the league. However, as poor as Woodlands' form may be now, the Rams have to bounce back at some point in time. And it certainly doesn't hurt to come into this game as heavy underdogs since almost everyone expects the Stags to come away with a victory.

Hussein Akil is acclimatising well to the weather and pace of the S.League.
Photo Credit:  Yeo's Great Eastern S.League

Anyone who watched Woodlands play in our first 2 matches of this season would probably believe that we can beat anyone if we played like that in every match.

I believe that the Rams can match any opposition in the league if we play cohesively as a unit. That means having the discipline to mark every man tightly, passing every ball with purpose and making the most of every chance we have. We seemed to have finally broke out of our shell and switched to a more balanced style of play, which makes it more attractive to watch as opposed to our previous defensive style.

Players like Daniel Hammond, Armanizam Dolah, Hussein Akil, Goh Swee Swee and Moon Soon-Ho are in fact some of the best in their position but honestly it has taken quite a while for them to gel together. It would be scary for any team if they could connect well together and start playing lively, attacking football.

Let's start having the confidence to have a go at the opponent's goal. There are plenty of Rams who can pack a powerful shot, or swing in a tricky cross. Come on Rams, show what you can do! It's time to wake up from your slumber!

Tampines expects an easy victory. Let's give them Hell instead!

Match Information
Date: Tuesday, 17th June, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Woodlands Stadium

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