S.League Mid-term Report: Steady away

In part two of our mid-season review, we take a look at the sides that have been doing reasonably well in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League so far.

Hafiz drawing the attentions of three Stags.

S.League Mid-term Report: Must improve

Tampines Rovers

The defending champions remain in a good position to defend their title as they are currently six points off the pace in third place. However, given the reinforcements coach Steven Tan brought in over the pre-season, Stags fans could probably be forgiven for expecting more from their side.

Inconsistency has been the problem so far for Tampines as they have struggled to string together a good run of results, while foreign imports Davor Piskor and Sasa Dreven have flattered to deceive so far. While the latter is likely to get a stay of execution considering Tan doesn't have many better options in goal, there have already been hints that the latter could be on his way out of the club.

Still, there have been some positive signs. Veteran striker Aleksandar Duric is still banging in the goals, while Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin's availability after passing the beep test means the Stags now have a new creative presence to call upon in the league.

Imran Sahib and Ismadi Mukhtar continue to do a good job down the flanks while striker Ahmed Fahmie has impressed sufficiently to warrant a call-up to the Singapore national side.

Mid-term Player of the Season: Sazali Salleh

Sazali probably isn't the first name pencilled in on the Tampines team sheet before each game but in what has been a rollercoaster season so far, his unflustered presence in the engine room has been the one constant for the Stags.

The 32-year-old never wastes a pass and has really looked to initiate proceedings every his side get the ball this season, especially considering regular midfield general Mustafic Fahrudin has had to fill in at the back on a number of occasions.

ESPNSTAR.com's Mid-term Grade: 6.5/10

Albirex Niigata

Albirex enjoyed a terrific start to the season as they picked up maximum points from their opening three games, including an impressive 3-2 win over SAFFC. However, they then went four matches without a win, before a last-gasp winner from captain Norihiro Kawakami saw them beat Hougang United 2-1, a result that was the first of a five-game unbeaten run.

The White Swans are one of the few teams that seem to have quality in every area of the pitch, from Takuma Ito in goal to Toshikazu Soya up front. However, it is in midfield where they are strongest, especially with Atsushu Shimono and Musashi Okuyama dictating matters in the middle of the park.

Mid-term Player of the Season: Sho Kamimura

Albirex haven't had any problems finding the back of the net this season, boasting the competition's 6th-best attack. However, plenty of their 17 goals have come as a result of Kamimura's excellent work down the flank. The pacy winger is more than capable of beating a couple of opponents before sliding in an inch-perfect pass for his strikers to feed on, but has also weighed in with three goals himself.

What they said

"I am satisfied with our performance so far but this team can play much better and we'll be looking to improve in the second half of the season. Our aim is to win the title," - Albirex Niigata coach Koichi Sugiyama

"I am not content with my performance at all this season. I have a big ambition and to achieve that, I have to practice more everyday. This year's Albirex has a different look and we will try to do our best." - Albirex Niigata winger Sho Kamimura

ESPNSTAR.com's Mid-term Grade: 7/10

Tanjong Pagar United

After just one win in their opening nine matches, the Jaguars ended the first half of the campaign with three straight 1-0 victories, including shock triumphs over Home United and Balestier Khalsa, to climb up to 8th in the table.

However, it must be remembered that Tanjong Pagar have arguably the weakest squad of all the teams and given how this season is shaping up to be one of the most-competitive in the league's history, coach Terry Pathmanathan will be aware his side are only a couple of injuries away from freefalling to the bottom of the ladder.

20-year-old captain Delwinder Singh continues to play a key role for the Jaguars, although there are few that are currently capable in matching him in both talent and commitment.

Mid-term Player of the Season: Takaya Kawanabe

But while Delwinder's resolute performances have gone some way in shoring up Tanjong Pagar's vulnerable defence, his one-man efforts are nothing compared to Kawanabe singlehandedly trying to hit the back of the net for Pathmanathan's shot-shy charges.

The Japanese attacking-midfielder never stops making darting runs into the opposition area in search of space and deservingly grabbed winners in the victories over Home and Balestier.

ESPNSTAR.com's Mid-term Grade: 5/10

Gombak United

While Gombak are currently only four points off the foot of the table, it has actually been a fairly successful season for the new-look Bulls.

Under K. Balagumaran, the Jurong West-based side have decided to put their faith in youth and already, the likes of Nurullah Hussein, Muhd Nur Na'iim and Samuel Benjamin look like they could be future internationals.

New signing Hafiz Rahim has also shown good signs after his start to life at Gombak was hampered by injury, while at the back, Balagumaran has a competent, tactically-sound unit to call upon.

Mid-term Player of the Season: Ismail Yunos

One member of the Bulls backline that has really stood out this season has been Ismail, who has provided a steadying influence at right-back.

The 25-year-old is never afraid to get stuck in and is capable of dominating opponents with his physical nature, but is also useful going forward and can be a real threat with his long throws.

What they said

"I'm personally quite satisfied with the team's performance. I've always had this philosophy of blending youth with senior players, we are quite happy with the young ones coming through the ranks and the fact that they are keeping the seniors on their toes. I still believe we can finish in the top five." - Gombak United coach K. Balagumaran

"We're doing pretty well, we play good passing football. Sometimes we have been unlucky in games but overall, we are progressing well. We have set a target of a mid-table finish but hopefully we can do better than that." - Gombak United forward Hafiz Rahim

ESPNSTAR.com's Mid-term Grade: 6.5/10

Courts Young Lions

In many games this season, the 10th-placed Young Lions have put in strong performances yet haven't been able to find that extra bit required to kill off their opponents, something coach Robin Chitrakar will be hoping they can improve on.

There is no doubting they have some of the hottest prospects in the competition, with Sherif El-Masri widely regarded as one of the best wingers in the country, while Shahfiq Ghani, Faris Ramli and Syazwan Buhari have also displayed promising signs.

While the main goal for Young Lions remains nurturing the country's brightest youngsters, a strong showing in the league would be a huge boost to the players' confidence.

Mid-term Player of the Season: Hafiz Abu Sujad

Despite his tender years, there are few better captains in the S.League than Young Lions skipper Hafiz.

The 21-year-old midfield dynamo always gives it his all when he leads his side into battle, and is extremely tidy and intelligent in possession.

Hafiz and vice-captain Faritz Hameed are currently two of Singapore's hottest prospects that could soon move on to bigger things.

ESPNSTAR.com's Mid-term Grade: 5.5/10

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