Singapore Premier League • February 27, 2014

Jaguars Banking on Zerka for Cheetahs Battle


Tanjong Pagar vs Hougang United

(February 27, Thursday, 7.30pm, Queenstown Stadium)

Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Tanjong Pagar United return home to face Hougang United at the Queenstown Stadium on Thursday evening and will look to build on their 2-1 away win over Harimau Muda in their opening match of the 2014 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League season.

Masrezwan Masturi and Azrul Nizam Muhammad’s own goal cancelled out Akhir Bahari’s opener as Patrick Vallee’s side dug deep to earn all three points. They also had to thank Aurelien Herisson as the burly goalkeeper pulled off a string of excellent saves to deny the Young Tigers victory.

Already without midfielder Ahmad Latiff who continues his recovery from a double knee injury, Kamel Ramdani limped off after the game against Harimau and this raised concerns that the playmaker could have picked up an injury.

With Sazali Salleh still not fully fit, Vallee faces a selection headache especially in midfield where he has limited options to choose from with Ruzaini Zainal and Nor Azli Yusoff also set to miss out after both saw red against Harimau and will serve their suspensions.

However, the French coach – whose side will welcome back marquee signing Monsef Zerka from suspension – remained positive.  Although they won their previous match,  they sorely missed Zerka’s predator instinct upfront as they only had six shots in the match and only one was on target.

“I promise I will start with a strong eleven players against Hougang,” he quipped.

“No, I’m not worried or scared. Even if i was, what can I do? I need to now work and prepare a plan for the next game.

“I have to think about what happened (against Harimau Muda). I’m not sure about (the injury to) Kamel Ramdani.”

Hougang meanwhile, had to contend with a 2-2 draw with Woodlands Wellington in their previous game.

They led twice in that match through Igor Cerina and Fazli Jaffar but their inability to hold on to their lead saw the Rams earn a share of the spoils with strikes from debutant Taufiq Ghani and Moon Soon Ho.

While poor finishing was the Cheetahs’ main downfall, they also found opposing goalkeeper Yazid Yasin in imperious form as the ex-international thwarted the Hougang attackers time and again.

If Hougang are to get something out of this game, Erwan Gunawan and his strike partner have to be more clinical in front of goal while keeping things tight at the back against Zerka and co.

Key Man to Watch

Tanjong Pagar: Aurélien Hérisson

With several players missing due to injuries and suspension, coach Patrick Vallee may need to keep things tight at the back, soak up the pressure and play on the counter as he did against Harimau Muda.

Goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson was instrumental in the win over Harimau, making important saves when the Jaguars were nine-man down. Herisson also was responsible for initiating attacks from the back (15 out of 21 successful attacking passes) and his accuracy will help Tanjong Pagar to counter-attack swiftly.

Hougang United: Fazli Jaffar

Fazli had a starring role in the draw with Woodlands, scoring and creating a goal for the Cheetahs. His crossing will be an asset here (70% of his crosses found his teammates), though Fazli may struggle to get his crosses in if he does not improve in his dribbling (20% success rate) to get past his marker.

Tanjong Pagar United – WLLLD

24/02/14     Harimau Muda 1-2 Tanjong Pagar

8/11/13    Home United 4-1 Tanjong Pagar (RHB Singapore Cup)

4/11/13    Tanjong Pagar United 0-1 Balestier Khalsa

30/10/13    Tanjong Pagar United 0-1 Home United

26/10/13    Tampines Rovers 1-1 Tanjong Pagar United

Hougang United – DLWWL

22/02/14     Hougang United 2-2 Woodlands Wellington

5/11/13        Courts Young Lions 2-0 Hougang United

29/10/13    Hougang United 4-1 Geylang International

24/10/13    Hougang United 4-1 Harimau Muda B

19/10/13    Brunei DPMM 1-0 Hougang United

Head to Head (S.League)

4/7/13    Tanjong Pagar 1-0 Hougang United

22/3/13    Hougang United 2-3 Tanjong Pagar

14/6/12    Tanjong Pagar 0-1 Hougang United

9/2/12    Hougang United 1-1 Tanjong Pagar

26/11/11    Tanjong Pagar 1-3 Hougang United

6/10/11    Hougang United 4-3 Tanjong Pagar

25/4/11    Tanjong Pagar 0-5 Hougang United