Philippine club Ceres-La Salle FC now goes to Singapore for Match Day 3 of the 2016 AFC Cup. Waiting for them are Group E leaders Tampines Rovers who are keen to extend their unbeaten run in the tournament with two wins and no goals conceded.
Photo from Tampines Rovers Wikipedia Page
Tampines Rovers is a Singaporean football club founded in 1945. It is known to be one of Singapore’s richest clubs and is a perennial contender in the S.League. Also known as the Mighty Stags, the Singaporean Club placed second in the 2015 edition of the S-League which allowed them to qualify for the tournament. Tampines has made headlines at the the start of the year with their high profile acquisitions producing on what is, on-paper, Singapore’s strongest club.
Players to Watch
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) employs a 3+1 foreign player rule where 3 Non-Asians and 1 Asian player can be included in the line-up of different clubs. This allows the development of local talent within the country and the continent.
#9 Jermaine Pennant (Midfielder)
The former Arsenal & Liverpool midfielder is the most popular of the bunch. Pennant shocked the footballing world last January when he signed for the Singapore outfit upping the ante in the S-League and the AFC Cup. The veteran showcased his quality against Sheikh Jamal producing fine runs and assists along the way. Expect a well rested Pennant showing his quality in the Ceres match.
#25 Billy Mehmet (Forward)
The 31-year old Irishman is a veteran of southeast Asia with experience in Australia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The former West Ham youth player is a known goalscorer leveraging his height and finishing ability. With a height of 1.89m (6’2″ft), he will be a handful for Ceres’ centerbacks.
#17 Jordan Webb (Midfielder)
Fast, flashy, and at the top of his game, Webb is already an S.League veteran at a tender age of 27. The Canadian was a handful against Selangor in Matchday 2, allowing Tampines Coach V. Sundramoorthy to rest both Pennant and Mehmet. A deadly player on both side wings with a little attitude to go, he will be a joy to watch.
#20 Kwon Jun (Defender)
Tampines Rovers’ Asian player, Kwon Jun is a lanky centerback who has plenty of experience around Asia and Brazil. Kwon Jun earned international experience in Brazil at a very young age. He then went around Asia earning contracts in Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, ans Indonesia.
#1 Izwan Mahbud (Goalkeeper)
The 25-year old goalkeeper may seem young but he already has all the experience he needs both at club and national team levels. Izwan once played against the Philippines four years ago in the Suzuki Cup and a trial earlier this year with a Japanese club only validates his quality as a goalkeeper.
#4 Mustafic Fahrudin (Defender)
The Naturalized Singaporean is the captain for Tampines Rovers. The Serbian-born player operates both as a defensive midfielder or a centerback. Mustafic is a rugged defensive player who is 1.80m tall. He struggled to guard Selangor giant Patrick Wleh, but the 1-0 scoreline erases all doubts about his capability.
#10 Fazrul Nawaz (Forward)
Wearing a scrum cap due to a prior injury, this tall forward has a knack for goal epitomized by scoring the winner against Selangor. He is expected to start on the bench against Ceres
#13 Yasir Hanapi (Midfielder)
Tampines’ midfield general is a new acquisition from S-League team Home United. The midfielder has been a constant feature in the Tampines games because of his consistency on the pitch. Considered as one of the better young players in Singapore together with teammate Izzdin Shafiq, he has played a key role in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Tampines Coach V. Sundramoorthy uses two different formation in the 3-4-3 and the 4-4-2 with preference on the former. The formation becomes 5-4-1 defensively which choked the Selangor offense to a scoreless performance. As this is a home game, the wingbacks would be in a more central role than a defensive one.
A three-man backline was deployed in the last match against Selangor using Afiq, Kwon Jun, and Mustafic as centerbacks and Irwan and Fabian as wingbacks for a tougher backline. The defensive line had issues with the speed of R. Gopinathan who had a lot of forays into the box.
The midfield has a dearth of multi-position midfielders on his bench. Yasir has been has been the mainstay in the middle but Izzdin, Shahdan, and Hafiz all rotate as the left central midfield. Should Yasir be injured, anyone can easily replace his presence in the middle. The Tampines midfield has a diamond-like shape allowing them to shift the action from both sides utilizing good spacing and passing to benefit their dangerous forward players.
The Mighty Stag’s have Mehmet or Fazrul as the target man but the team has only been using either one of them for the last few games. Fazrul scored the winner against Selangor but it is expected that Mehmet will start alongside Jordan and Pennant. Both wingers have quality individual skills to get past their marking providing good crosses or attempts in the process.
Overall, Tampines Rovers is a a very disciplined team who has come out on top on both of their matches so far. They are hard to break down defensively in the AFC Cup but they have conceded plenty in the S.League. The attacking trio of Pennant, Mehmet, and Webb will need to be contained in order the visiting side to get a result.