S.League Team of the Week

Balestier Khalsa wrapped up a top-six finish in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League this past week with a 1-1 draw against Tanjong Pagar United last Saturday.

Cunningham hunts down his opponent...

By Gabriel Tan

Carlos Delgado whipped in a freekick six minutes before the break to give the Jaguars the lead, but Balestier captain Paul Cunningham popped up 15 minutes from time to earn a vital point for his side, sealing their best-ever finish in the S.League.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Albirex Niigata played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Courts Young Lions, while Thursday's game saw Woodlands Wellington hold Home United to a 0-0 draw at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Harimau Muda are now up to third after recording a comfortable 3-1 win over Geylang United on Wednesday, which was followed up by a 0-0 draw with Hougang United on Monday.

Hougang themselves played two games this week, falling to a 3-1 defeat to DPMM FC on Wednesday which was enough to see the Bruneian side head into the final round of the campaign a point behind leaders Tampines Rovers.

Here, ESPNSTAR.com picks our best 11 players in a 4-2-2 formation with a surprise selection as the spearhead in attack.

GK: Fadhil Salim (Hougang United)

Having comfortably put three goals past Geylang last Wednesday, Harimau must have entered Monday's game at the Hougang Stadium confident in their chances of finding the back of the net, although they certainly weren't counting on Fadhil to be in inspired form as the 29-year-old repelled everything the Malaysians threw at him.

Shortly before the half-hour mark, he made smart saves to deny both Syahid Zaidon and Ahmad Hazwan and eight minutes before the break, the former must have been wondering how he had failed to score after his bullet header from point-blank range was kept out by a remarkable reflex save.

It was then Hazwan's turn to be left scratching his head in the 52nd minute as he saw a fierce header of his own kept out by Fadhil, and five minutes from time, the Cheetahs custodian produced another stunning stop to block a close-range effort from D. Saarvindran.

Fadhil may struggle to compete with the likes of Yazid Yasin and Takuma Ito for the honour of being the best goalkeeper of the season, but Monday's display was by far the top goalkeeping display in 2012.

RB: Masrezwan Masturi (Home United)


Masrezwan has been a real unsung hero for the Protectors this year as he has been asked to plug holes all over the park, although left-back has been where he's featured most.

On Thursday, he was shifted to the right-side of defence and was his usual steady self, giving Oswind Suriya no joy with his tight marking, but also pushing forward at every opportunity to add width to the Home attacks.

CB: Syaqir Sulaiman (Hougang United)

Hougang were dealt a real blow at the start of the second half of the season when Stanislas Vidakovic picked up a season-ending knee injury, but the Croat's absence has hardly been felt and plenty of credit has to go to Syaqir and his centre-back partner Hasree Zais.

While both are still susceptible to the odd lapse in concentration, they are extremely strong in the air and have produced their fair share of perfectly-timed tackles.

At 26, Syaqir is relatively young for a defender and could still have a bright future if he improves at his current rate of progression.

CB: Sairol Sahari (DPMM FC)

When DPMM last played in the S.League in 2010, Sairol established himself as one of the most-dangerous wingers in the competition.

Since then, the emergence of Azwan Saleh has seen coach Vjeran Simunic deploy him as a left-sided central defender but to his credit, the 29-year-old has adapted his new role seamlessly and has been a vital cog in the DPMM defence that has conceded only 25 goals this season.

Sairol was particularly impressive in his side's 3-1 win over the Cheetahs on Wednesday as he drew on all his experience to negate the influence of the dangerous Jordan Webb.

LB: Duncan Elias (Woodlands Wellington)

Along with Moon Soon-ho, Elias has been one of the Rams' best players this year and he produced a trademark classy display against Home on Thursday.

The Woodlands vice-captain was always ready to move inboard to provide a spare man in the centre, but was equally effective in possession with his distribution out of defence.

RM: Wan Zack Haikal (Harimau Muda)


When Harimau last met Geylang earlier in the season, it was Wan Zack who broke the deadlock near the end of the first half when he spun past his marker and unleashed a delightful left-footed strike past Yazid into the far corner.

While he didn't get on the scoresheet on Wednesday, he was arguably the Malaysians' best player on the park as he laid on all three assists for his side.

The first came in the 16th minute when his well-weighted cross was haphazardly cleared straight into the path of Irfan Fazail, who clinically lashed a shot home.

Three minutes before the hour mark, Wan Zack racked up assist number two when another dangerous delivery was headed home by Gary Robbat, and eight minutes from time, he capped off a fine individual display by laying the ball off the captain Mahalli Jasuli, who proceeded to let fly with an effort that had Yazid beaten all ends up.

CM: Irfan Fazail (Harimau Muda)

Unlike Wan Zack, Irfan hasn't had the most impressive of seasons but his display against the Eagles drew praise from opposition assistant coach Noor Ali after the game, as the Johor native dictated the tempo for his side.

The 21-year-old regularly found space and always picked out the right pass, and while his side failed to replicate their winning ways five days later against Hougang, Irfan was equally impressive in his midfield general role, something he might have to do even more next year with the impending departure of Affize Faisal.

CM: Zulfahmi Arifin (Courts Young Lions)

It has been a season to forget for Young Lions as several factors have combined to consign them to a finish in the bottom four.

Nonetheless, one bright spark has been Zulfahmi's emergence as a bona fide top-class midfielder, something he has had to do given captain Hafiz Abu Sujad has been forced to fill in at left-back for much of the campaign.

Against Albirex, he produced an all-action display and regularly had the opposition defence on the back foot with his visionary passes. Zulfahmi was always never afraid to try his luck from distance, and was only denied a spectacular 35-yard goal thanks to a flying save from Ito shortly before the break.

LM: Asraf Rashid (Tanjong Pagar United)

One of the most under-rated players in the competition, Asraf - on his day - is capable of giving even the most-established full-backs a real headache, which is exactly what he did against the Tigers at the weekend.

The ex-SAFFC man regularly left his marker for dead with his sharp turn of pace and would have been lamenting his attackers' inability to make better use of his tempting deliveries into the box.

ST: Basiru Osman (DPMM FC)


A main reason why DPMM comfortably picked up three points at the Hougang Stadium last Wednesday was the fact that the Cheetahs just had no answer for Osman.

The Ghanaian made good use of his strength, pace and skill by running straight at goal every time he got the ball, and it was one such drive in the 56th minute that led to DPMM's second goal, after he left three men in his wake before slipping the ball to Patrick da Silva, who made no mistake from just inside the area.

Osman could have grabbed a goal of his own in the 71st minute when he went on another burst past two defenders, only to fire into the side-netting with only Fadhil to beat.

ST: Paul Cunningham (Balestier Khalsa)

No, you are not reading this wrongly. Tigers captain Cunningham is in our Team of the Week - as a striker!

Having marshalled his defence with authority in the opening period only to see Tanjong Pagar edge ahead, the giant New Zealander was sent forward by Balestier coach Darren Stewart as an auxiliary striker but had an immediate impact as the opposition defence struggled to cope with his sheer height and strength.

15 minutes from time, the move proved to be a masterstroke as Cunningham displayed a real poacher's instinct, capitalising on a slip-up by the Jaguars inside their own area to steal a share of the spoils for Balestier.



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