Singapore Premier League • November 18, 2015
Recap: Seven Times The S.League Has Gone Down To The Wire
Written by: Nigel Chin
With Brunei DPMM and Tampines Rovers set to take the 2015 S.League title race right up until the final day of the season, SLeague.com digs up the history books and assesses what happened in the seven times the S.League title race went down the wire.
1998: Goal difference the factor
The 1998 season remains the only time the S.League title was decided on goal difference.
Singapore Armed Forces Football Club (SAFFC – now known as Warriors FC) clinched their second S.League title on 1 August 1998, ahead of closest challengers Tanjong Pagar United.
In 1997, it was the also the Jaguars who came closest to challenging the Warriors, finishing runners-up.
This time round, the Jaguars did their best to push the title to the last day of the season. Both teams had 43 points after 19 matches, with the defending champions having a superior goal difference of four.
As it turned out, the Jaguars did not do quite enough despite a 5-2 defeat of Woodlands Wellington, with the Armed Forces taking a narrow 1-0 win over Gombak United, meaning Warriors ended the season at the top of the table with a plus two advantage on goal difference over Tanjong Pagar United.
2001: A bridge for Warriors as Eagles soar
Geylang United clinched the S.League title with a two-point gap over Singapore Armed Forces in 2001, but the truth is, they should have wrapped it up earlier.
However, they slipped up in Round 30 and Round 31, losing to Tampines Rovers while slogging to a 1-1 draw against Home United, which allowed the Warriors to reduce the deficit from seven points to just two.
Both sides continued to win their matches until the final match day of the season, but it proved to be a gap too far to bridge for the Warriors despite a 5-0 thrashing of Woodlands Wellington; Geylang dispatched Jurong 3-0 comfortably to clinch their second-ever S.League title.
2007: Warriors does it again
It would take six years for the S.League to witness another title race that went down to the wire, this time involving the Singapore Armed Forces (of course) and Home United.
After being level on points at the top of the table for a few weeks, a slip-up from the Protectors against the Young Lions in Round 29 allowed the Warriors to take the lead following their 1-1 draw with Tampines Rovers.
In the penultimate round, both title contenders faced each other, but Home were unable to take advantage as the game ended in a stalemate. The Warriors followed that up with a routine 2-1 win over Gombak United on the final day of the season to clinch the title by one point, despite Home’s victory over Geylang United by the same scoreline.
2010: A historical moment
With just six games to go in the season, Tampines Rovers had a two-point lead at the top of the table over debutants Etoile FC after the latter fell to a defeat against Home United.
But in Round 28, Etoile defeated Tampines 2-1 to take over the lead at the top of the table, which grew to four after the Stags lost one more against Home United in Round 29.
There was however a blip when Etoile lost 3-0 to SAFFC, but the French side recovered in their final two games to clinch the title by just one point, becoming the first foreign side in the league’s history to win it.
2011: Tan does it in his first attempt
After missing out on the title the previous year, former Singapore international Steven Tan replaced incumbent Vorawan Chitavanich in the Tampines hot seat and led the Stags to the S.League title immediately.
However, they had to come from behind to displace Home United and win the title.
The Protectors were leading the standings by two points with two games to go in the season, as both contenders met in the penultimate game. An Ahmad Latiff Kamaruddin goal midway in the second half settled the contest with the Stags won, allowing them to go top on 23 November 2011.
On the final day of the season, Home trounced Geylang International 5-0 while hoping for Tampines to slip up, only for the eventual winners to defeat Balestier Khalsa with the same scoreline.
2012: Tampines Rovers again… This time with a different coach
Despite swapping their coach midway through the season, Tampines managed to keep going in the title race.
Tay Peng Kee’s side were leading the table for most part of the season until a temporary loss of form where they dropped four points in two games to allow Brunei DPMM to draw level on points with two games to go in the season.
However when it mattered, Brunei DPMM failed to defeat Balestier Khalsa on their home soil while Tampines defeated Harimau Muda 1-0 to lift the trophy on the final day of the season.
Incidentally, both Tampines and DPMM will be playing the same pair of opponents on the final day of the season this year too.
2014: DPMM slips up again
This is probably the biggest slip up the S.League has ever seen.
Despite having an eight-point lead at the summit going into the final round, Brunei DPMM somehow managed to end the season as runners-up instead, losing five times in their last seven matches.
One of it included a 3-2 defeat to Warriors FC, who lifted the trophy on the last day of the season after DPMM, despite having a superior goal difference, lost to Tampines Rovers to finish three points behind.
Once again, the title race will be decided on the final day of the league, with Tampines Rovers merely two points behind Brunei DPMM.
While the Stags will face a difficult but manageable Harimau Muda, the Wasps have a tough game against Balestier Khalsa and this might see a dramatic turn of events with regards to where the title lands.
In the event that DPMM is held by Balestier and Tampines beat the Young Tigers, everything might boil down to goal difference, which doesn’t really separates both sides too as Tampines are behind by just one.
Will DPMM suffer deja vu and collapse once again, or will they finally lay their hands on the title that they have yearned for after so long? Find out on November 21 when both teams play their last games!