News Singapore Premier League • August 18, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Warriors’ Ho Wai Loon guns for fifth straight win against former club Balestier


Ho has been a key part of Warriors’ midfield this season.

SINGAPORE, 18 AUG 2018Resurgent Warriors FC have the chance to win five successive games in a season for the first time since September 2011 when they visit Balestier Khalsa FC at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening, 19 August. The Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) match will kick off at 5.30pm.

BACKGROUND How quickly things can change quickly in football. Just two and a half months ago, the Warriors were languishing second from bottom after failing to win any of their first ten matches.

A 2-0 home win over Hougang United FC proved to be the catalyst in turning their season around as they won three in a row to climb up the table, before a run of three straight defeats.

Mirko Grabovac’s men did not waver though as they put together four successive wins – the latest being a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Tampines Rovers FC in midweek – to lift themselves to fifth in the SPL table.

This is their best run of form since April 2015 – the last time when they won four straight league games – and it has given them a fighting chance of finishing in the top four for the first time since claiming their ninth title in 2014.

The Warriors are now breathing down the necks of fourth-placed Brunei DPMM FC, just a point behind albeit having played a game more.

While the good run of form has come too late for them to be in contention of qualifying for the AFC Cup, versatile midfielder Ho Wai Loon believes it bodes well for his side in the upcoming RHB Singapore Cup campaign.

The Warriors are paired with DPMM in the tournament’s two-legged quarter-finals, with the first leg scheduled at Jalan Besar Stadium next Thursday before the second leg at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Wednesday, September 19.

“At the start of the season, there were a lot of changes in formations due to injuries. But since the second round started, we have been faring better,” said Ho, who turns 25 on Monday.

“The credit goes to Coach Mirko – he’s always telling us to believe in ourselves and trust our potential. That’s why we’re always enjoying (ourselves) on the pitch now. You can see how much the players want to win, especially against Tampines… giving our 110 per cent on the pitch and showing a never-say-die attitude.

“Considering how we started the season, a top-four finish in the league would be decent and we cannot ask for more. Hopefully we’ll do well in the Cup as well – who knows, we may even win it?”

The Warriors now have a chance to achieve something that they have not done since 2011 – win five straight games in a season.

However, it is easier said than done as they face a gritty Balestier side that have won two on the trot and lost once in their last six outings.

The Tigers have already exceeded their 2017 tally of 19 points by six and could yet still overhaul the Warriors to take fifth spot.

“It’s always a tough one against Balestier,” warned Ho, who was on the books of Balestier from 2014 to 2016. “Their energy and fighting spirit is always there…. So we have to bring out our A-game again to get a win against them.”

Balestier remain ravaged by injuries, with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) victims Raihan Rahman and Sharin Majid ruled out of the season, while Croatian midfielder Vedran Mesec is still not available after a long injury lay-off.

The good news for the Tigers is that midfielder Huzaifah Aziz is back from a one-game suspension.

As for the Warriors, Hafiz Sulaiman will be unavailable due to a one-game suspension while defensive midfielder Poh Yi Feng is also out after suffering a knee injury against Tampines. Forward Khairul Nizam is unlikely to play a part too after sustaining an injury in the same game.

Young wide man Nur Luqman has returned to training and could find himself on the bench.

Balestier: DDLWW
Warriors: LWWWW

23/06/18: Warriors 3-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
29/04/18: Balestier 2-1 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
17/08/17: Balestier 2-2 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
19/05/17: Warriors 1-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
28/02/17: Balestier 1-2 Warriors – Singapore Premier League

Shaqi Sulaiman – Balestier
An injury stemmed his development midway through the season, but Shaqi has since recovered and is recapturing the early-season form that earned him rave reviews. The 19-year-old centre-back may still be raw, but is not afraid of putting in tenacious challenges when needed. That will come handy as he comes up against Warriors in-form hitman Jonathan Behe.

Jonathan Behe – Warriors
Who else but him? Time and again, Behe has proved to be the difference between victory and defeat for the Warriors. The 29-year-old French forward did not have the best of outings against Tampines, but still came up with the match-winning goal right at the death. The Balestier defence simply cannnot afford any lapse of concentration against a man with such predatory instincts.

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic:
“I’m good friends with Mirko, but for the 90 minutes we are just trying to win the game for our teams. It’s good that now we have Keegan (Linderboom) back… he’s our main man, who comes down to defend very well for us when it’s needed.

“As for Hazzuwan (Halim), we’ve put him many times on the bench at the start of the season due to the Under-23 ruling. It’s tough to make an impact from the bench. But now he’s starting more and finding the confidence to play. I’m also happy for (mid-season) Zakir (Samsudin)… he’s working very hard and I’m proud that he scored in just his second game for us (in the 2-1 midweek win against Hougang).”

Warriors midfielder Ho: “Probably luck was really on our side against Tampines, but let’s not forget the effort we put in to achieve the result.

“No doubt, Behe has been scoring most of our goals (15 out of 25). But then again, football is not an individual sport. Every player plays a part whenever they are called upon… Everyone contributes something in order for the team to score and win games.”

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