Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cheetah Sees "Stars" as Etoile FC wins 4-2

Etoile FC, still reeling from the sucker punch that Gombak United had given to them in the last match, walked out of Queenstown Stadium with all 3 points, as a Justin double deflated any morale that was remaining in the Cheetahs.

Etoile FC started without Kevin Lefranc as the 'creative spark' of the Stars was still nursing an injury sustained in the last game, although he was still fit enough to be placed on the bench. In his absence, Coach Arena decided to deploy 2 strikers in the mould of Justin and Moulin. The visiting Cheetahs, meanwhile, sprung a major surprise as ex-Home United goalie Ridzhuan Fatah Hassan was preferred to Fadhil Salim, the latter being the brick that had stopped the Stars in previous occasions.

The first half saw flowing attacking football displayed by both teams and apart from a Moulin effort that hit the side-netting after rounding Ridzhuan, there wasn't plenty to crow about with both teams heading into the dressing room happy that the score is still at 0-0.

However, what was lacking in the first half came in lorry loads in the second, and it was perhaps fitting, that our "Player to Watch" open the scoring after 2 minutes had barely passed in the second period. Having been awarded a free kick after card-happy Shahir Hamzah Kobayashi had fouled an Etoile player, free kick specialist Maxime Belouet happily curled the ball into Ridzhuan's right side of the post and suddenly, the game was given a life of it's own. Almost immediately, the Stars were given yet another free-kick, this time round at the right side of the field. Whilst the whole Cheetah's defence was expecting a cross to the tall players in the box, Belouet had different ideas. He curled the ball straight into the net from the free kick and it seemed that the Cheetahs are perhaps cursing at their luck after a good 1st half performance, conceding 2 within 3 minutes. Belouet had thus scored via 3 free kicks in 4 games.

Straight from the kick-off though, Jordan Webb weaved through the Etoile defence, passed the ball to his right to Noor Ali, the ex-Rams winger shot the ball, which was parried by Trilles, and the rebound found a gleeful Webb, who accepted the gift. Within 5 minutes, the Queenstown fanfare, which includes the Ultras and U4U, witness 3 goals already.

Just when the tempo started to slow down in the game, where the Stars seemed happy to hold on to the scoreline, Delgado had different ideas. Trying to gain advantage by playing an indirect freekick quick, Delgaldo managed to find Talhi with the ball, who almost immediately spray the ball to his left, and to Stan Fougeroud. The forward immediately pranced the left flank and after going past Fazli Jaffar, made a defence splitting pass to present Justin with his first ever S-League goal. The joy was evident on the face of the lanky forward who rushed to the corner flag and celebrate with his team mates.

The Cheetahs though, had other plans, as Delgado seek atonement for his mistake with an instant reply. Once again, it was Trilles who saved a Cheetah shot and parried the ball over to the foot of Delgado, and the forward cannot miss from the range that he was given the ball. With the game now at 3-2, the Cheetahs finally start to believe that this game was theirs for the taking and started to put the Stars on the back peddle. The Stars, meanwhile, were happy to just soak up the pressure and attack from the counter.

And one such counter saw Justin, Raymond and Jean Charles Blanpin running up against the defensive pairing of Shariff and Kobayashi, with Blanpin's cross meeting the head of Justin, and the lanky forward scoring his second of the night. That goal also deflated any hopes that the Cheetahs have in tying this game. When referee Abdul Malik blew for the final whistle, the joy on the face of the players was evident.

A great game and win for Etoile FC, coupled with a first goal for Justin, giving the striker confidence as he work towards being the 'complete player' that Johan had described him to be. However, perhaps the greatest joy that Arena can take back with him is that having struggled against the Cheetahs (or the Dolphins as they were previously known as) in the past, this crop of players seemed to deal with the Cheetahs comfortably. More importantly, this group of Etoile players carried on the legacy of scoring 4 goals in the opening game at Queenstown Stadium, having done that last season against Woodlands Wellington (win 4-0).

Allez Etoile.

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