Singapore Premier League • May 11, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: DPMM look to end Toa Payoh hoodoo against Balestier


Afiq Salman Tan has impressed for Balestier Khalsa FC this season.

SINGAPORE, 11 MAY 2018It will be a battle between two resurgent sides at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening, 13 May as third-placed Balestier Khalsa FC take on Brunei DPMM FC, two spots below them, in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL). The match will kick off at 5.30pm.

BACKGROUND 2017 was pretty much a year to forget for Balestier and DPMM as they finished third from bottom and second-last respectively.

A new campaign brings forth the opportunity to start afresh and both sides’ fortunes have changed significantly this term.

Balestier sit third with 10 points from seven games, just nine points away from matching last year’s tally. Much of the Tigers’ success this year can be attributed to the foreign attacking duo of Vedran Mesec and Keegan Linderboom.

In particular, the latter has impressed with his hold-up play and is the league’s joint-third top scorer with four goals to his name.

However, one should not discount the work by the locals. Experienced goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam and roving right-back Fadli Kamis form the fulcrum of the team, while young players like Shaqi Sulaiman and Noor Akid Nordin have stood out with their fearless displays.

“The team spirit is great on and off the field; we’re mostly always together wherever we go,” defender Sufianto Salleh said. “Senior players like Zaiful and (long-term injury victim) Raihan (Rahman) always keep the players on a high by motivating us and talking to us before the game.

“Coach Marko (Kraljevic) has trained us really hard from the first day of pre-season and the team bonding we have off the field is showing in the strong performances on the field.”

Meanwhile, DPMM are in fifth with seven points from four – 10 points off what they accumulated last season. Having a change of coach from Steve Kean to Rene Weber and a new foreign trio in the form of Volodymyr Priyomov, Mojtaba Mollasaraei and Brian McLean to replace Rafael Ramazotti, Daud Gazale and Vincent Salas seems to have done the Wasps a world of good.

Former Shakhtar Donetsk man Priyomov has caught the eye with six goals, which has propelled him to the top of the scoring charts, while effervescent Iranian attacker Mollasaraei has chipped in with two goals and three assists.

Long-serving forward Adi Said is enjoying himself in a three-pronged attack as DPMM continue to rebuild under former Brazil Under-20 tactician Weber.

“We lost a great player in Ramazotti, but it’s good that we signed these two new forwards from Ukraine and Iran,” said the 27-year-old, who is now into his seventh season with the club. “They bring a different set of qualities to the team and I have to say it’s been fun to link up with them in attack.

“Coach Rene’s style is really different from Coach Kean’s. He has good technical knowledge and his training is helping the team so far.”

DPMM have a chance to close the gap between them and the frontrunners with a win, but history is against them – they have failed to win in five visits to Toa Payoh since returning to the SPL in 2012.

For Balestier, avoiding defeat will see them dislodge Tampines Rovers FC to go second in the table.

TEAM NEWS Apart from Raihan, who is ruled out of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Balestier will also be missing another central midfielder in Huzaifah Aziz as he is suspended for accumulating four yellow cards.

Centre-backs Nurullah Hussein and Sheikh Abdul Hadi are still recovering from injuries, so expect Sufianto to deputise alongside Shaqi at the heart of the Tigers defence again.

Meanwhile DPMM should have a fully-fit squad to call upon.

Balestier: WWDWL

DPMM 1-4 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
Balestier 2-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
DPMM 3-0 Balestier – League Cup
Balestier 2-1 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
Balestier 2-0 DPMM – Singapore Premier League

Afiq Salman Tan – Balestier
With the spotlight on Linderboom, not many have noticed the underrated excellence of Afiq, who has started six out of seven matches for the Tigers. The 22-year-old had little experience in professional football before the season, but that has not stopped him from being a constant threat on the flanks against more experienced defenders.

Mojtaba Mollasaraei – DPMM
Priyomov’s goalscoring acts have stolen the show, so the efforts of Mollasaraei have gone a little under the radar. The 27-year-old is a key facet of the Wasps’ attack as well with his superb all-round play, particularly his ability to spot a pass.

Balestier defender Sufianto
: “It was the first time in my football career playing as a centre-back against Tampines (in the last game) and I enjoyed the experience of being the last line of defence to protect my goalkeeper from any shots or crosses.

“DPMM have quality foreign attackers with good height, so the only way to stop them is to be disciplined in defending and take our chances upfront.”

DPMM forward Adi: “I’m confident of my team regaining the title, but not over-confident at the same time. We’ll try our best to win every game and it won’t be easy with seven straight away games (starting from this one). Balestier are stronger than last season, but we can beat them as long as we fight as a team.”

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