S-League Bi-Weekly Round-up

Woodlands and Albirex Early Pacesetters

Damon Yeo

Last season, bottom-dwellers Woodlands Wellington managed just three victories from 33 league games. This term, a revamped side had managed to surprise everyone by securing two wins in their first two league games of the season.

After grinding out a 1-0 win over Courts Young Lions in the opening round of fixture, the Rams completed a comfortable 3-1 victory over Geylang United to become the only the second team with six points in the S-League so far.

Woodlands share the top spot at this early stage with Albirex Niigata (S), who have beaten both SAFFC and Tanjong Pagar United. The Japanese side had deviated slightly from their recruitment policy this year, opting to go for a mix of youth and experience. These two early victories surely highlighted the team's intention for more silverware this term.

Meanwhile, perennial powerhouses of SAFFC, Tampines Rovers and Home United have all started the season poorly. These three teams have won nine out of the last ten S-League titles but have all yet to register victories after two matches.

SAFFC, in particular, look to be heading for a tough season. Despite the retention of 2011 top-scorer Mislav Karoglan and the recruitment of two ex-Albirex stalwarts, the Army side simply failed to perform as they lost to both Albirex and newcomers Brunei DPMM.

Elsewhere, Malaysian side Harimau Muda A managed a well-deserved victory on their S-League debut. The side, playing in the S-League as part of the an agreement between the FAS and the FAM, dismantled a Gombak United side in front of a very sparse crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium on the opening day.

2012 S-League Table (extract)

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Albirex Niigata (S) 2 2 0 0 7 3 +4 6
2 Woodlands Wellington 2 2 0 0 4 1 +3 6
3 Hougang United 2 1 1 0 4 1 +3 4
4 Brunei DPMM 2 1 1 0 4 3 +1 4
5 Balestier Khalsa 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4

Player of the Fortnight: Moon Soon-Ho (Woodlands Wellington)

The diminutive Korean striker had started the 2012 season superbly. His coolly taken penalty in the opening game eventually won his side the game and he was on hand to score again in his second game. His newly-formed partnership with new Australian import Hussien Akil appears to have taken shape and he will be crucial as Woodlands aim to build on their solid start.

Needs Improvement: The Attendance

S-League CEO Lim Chin had set the target of an average attendance of 2,000 to 2,500 per game in 2012 but initial official statistics indicates that a lot more work needs to be done.

Over the 12 S-league matches thus far, the average attendance is 1,721. However, this figure is skewed by the 8,672 who turned up in Brunei DPMM's home match against Tampines Rovers in Bangar Seri Bengawan. Not taking that game into account, the average attendance is much closer to the 1,000-mark.

Off-the-pitch: Broadcast Overseas

The match between Harimau Muda A and Gombak United on 9th Feb made history for the 17-year-old S-League, as it was the first time a game in our local league was telecast live in Malaysia and Brunei.

This milestone was hailed by the media as a stepping stone towards the concept of an ASEAN Super League for all the clubs in the region but whether this move will actually generate interest in the S-League from across the Causeway remain to be seen.

Upcoming Action

Round 3 features some interesting match-ups, as either Albirex or Woodlands (or both) will lose their 100% winning start to the season when they meet on 1 March after the international break. Tampines Rovers and Home United also commence their AFC Cup campaign on 6 March and 7 March respectively, against opponents from Hong Kong.

9 March will feature stadium debuts for Tanjong Pagar United and Tampines Rovers. The Jaguars return to their former home, the Queenstown Stadium, for the first time in eight years, while the Stags prepare for life as a western team in Clementi Stadium. The formerly most-eastern team in Singapore has to shift as the Tampines Stadium undergoes renovation works.

Fantasy Football