RHB Singapore Cup 2017: White Swans In Stags’ Way Of Double Dream
RHB Singapore Cup 2017 (Quarter-Final, First Leg)
Tampines Rovers vs Albirex Niigata (S)
(10 August, Thursday, 7.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
Written by: Ryan Low
Tampines Rovers and Albirex Niigata (S) will meet in a trilogy of matches in the space of 10 days, starting with the RHB Singapore Cup Quarter-Final first leg tie at Our Tampines Hub on Thursday night.
It will be followed by the second leg encounter at Jurong East Stadium three days later, before a Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League game at the same venue next Saturday.
These three games will prove crucial in the Stags’ bid to claim a double this season as they lie nine points behind Albirex, albeit with two games in hand, in the S.League.
Midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman is keen to take lessons from 2016 where they were targeting to win a Treble of the S.League, Singapore Cup and AFC Cup, but ultimately ended the season empty-handed.
“It may sound like a cliché, but the mentality now is just to take one match at a time and to concentrate on ourselves,” the 29-year-old told sleague.com. “The most important thing for us is to keep the consistency and continue winning matches.”
While many have claimed that Tampines are not as strong as last season where they had established foreigners like Jordan Webb, Billy Mehmet and Jermaine Pennant, the Stags’ class of 2017 are kicking on well under German coach Jurgen Raab - with just one loss in their last 10 S.League matches.
“I think the good form comes from the understanding from what coach Jurgen wants from us,” explained Shahdan. “We’re translating his ideas onto the pitch, which can only be a good thing.
“The team has a good camaraderie now and we’re really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
It will not be easy against Albirex though, with Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side getting the better of them in the two head-to-head encounters this season – winning 2-1 in the Community Shield at National Stadium and 4-1 at Tampines’ old hunting ground Jurong West Stadium.
The White Swans also came up trumps in last year’s Singapore Cup final with a 2-0 victory.
“They are tactically very disciplined and are very fast on the break,” warned Shahdan. “And of course, they have quality players who can hurt us. Strategy-wise for us, it is obviously to minimise what they do best, which is leaving gaps in between lines, and be careful of their fast breaks.”
Having scored in the Stags’ first game back in Tampines where they defeated Brunei DPMM 2-0 in front of a healthy crowd, Shahdan is hoping for more of the same.
“Playing on a new pitch is always tough as we need time to adjust. but it’s nice to be back where we belong with all the fans that supported us,” said the Singapore international.
“It’s important to make our home a fortress to win titles, so hopefully we can find form here and make it difficult for visiting teams to take points off us.”
Leaders Albirex, on the other hand, come into this on the back of a seven-match winning run in all competitions, with the latest a 5-0 thumping of Geylang International on Saturday.
While they have yet to drop a single point at their Jurong East base so far this season, the White Swans have found themselves to be rather careless on the road. They have lost five points at Bishan (2-2) and Hougang (1-2) whilst succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to Home United at Jalan Besar as the designated hosts.
With forward Tsubasa Sano in such red-hot form, Albirex will thus be relying on the 22-year-old for the goals who is ably assisted by creative player Kento Nagasaki.
Suspension: Ismadi Mukhtar (Tampines Rovers)
Tampines Rovers – DLLLW
28/07/17 Tampines Rovers 2-0 Brunei DPMM
14/07/17 Balestier Khalsa 3-0 Tampines Rovers (The New Paper League Cup)
11/07/17 Tampines Rovers 1-4 Geylang International (The New Paper League Cup)
08/07/17 Tampines Rovers 1-5 Brunei DPMM (The New Paper League Cup)
29/06/17 Tampines Rovers 1-1 Geylang International
Albirex Niigata (S) – WWWWW
05/08/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 5-0 Geylang International
29/07/17 Warriors FC 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
26/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Balestier Khalsa
21/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Warriors FC (The New Paper League Cup)
18/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Geylang International (The New Paper League Cup)