Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Etoile FC to 'ram' their Opponents

The Stars, travelling on the back of 3 consecutive wins in the S-League after losing 1-0 to Gombak United, takes on a severly wounded Woodlands Wellington FC on Thursday night at the Woodlands Stadium.

Woodlands Wellington FC
Having not garnered a win in the last 5 games this season, the Rams would be hoping for an unlikely victory over Etoile FC to kick-start their season. The Rams currently hold the distinction of not scoring a single S-League goal this season, and getting their solitary point against the Jaguars. While one can argue that their opponents in the last 5 games include Home United (lost 2-0), SAFFC (lost 5-0) and Albirex Niigata FC (lost 1-0), the inability to win against the Jaguars and Cheetahs is pretty big a question only their coach can answer.

Etoile FC
The visitors would relish on the fact that they had beaten Hougang United (4-2), Albirex Niigata (1-0) via a late Maxime's special and Tanjong Pagar (3-0) coming into this game. Add on to the fact that Jonathan Toto had blended into the team like tea is to milk, and Hicham Bouchemlal scoing on his league debut, and you have a team which is fully loaded and ready to go. For all that is said about this Etoile team not being as 'sensational' as the previous edition, this year's Etoile FC seemed to have more 'stability' and balance in the way that they play.

Key Player - Hicham Bouchemlal
The pony-tail midfielder showed his worth, and why the Stars were willing to wait for him to pass his beep test after numerous attempt, in the game againsts Tanjong Pagar, and more so against the Malaysian National team. Apart from taking control in the middle of the park with strong tackles and simple but accurate passes, the combative midfielder also poses a lethal touch. Just ask the Malaysian custodian about the goal that he conceded on Saturday. Having win the ball from a Malaysian defender, Hicham brought the ball forward, and within 3 touches got pass 3 defenders and blasted the ball into the top corner of goal. If Hicham wins the battle in midfield on Thursday, the Rams would find the 90 minutes longer than usual.

Key Player - Leonardo Da Costa
His introduction into the S-League by his coach was that of: He brings height into the squad and is probably the tallest striker in the league at 2m. However, if the Rams believe that Leonardo is in the same mould as his name-sake (who is a coach at Inter Milan now) or at least on par with the other tall guys like Frederic Mendy or Aleksander Duric, then perhaps after 5 games, they would be hoping that Lakkad Abdelhadi was still with them. However, in all honesty, the Brazilian shows some good touches in the 5 games that he played, and with the half-chances that were presented to him, managed to win some corners out of it. Antonin Trilles would hope that the Brazilian have a 6th quiet night on Thursday, but should come out good against the striker, if his defensive wall of Aymard and Talhi (if he is fit) do their job for the night.

The Ultras should be celebrating by the time the referee blow his whistle, but so many times in footballing lessons we learn that the team with the stronger line-up, the team with the most possession may not necessarily be the victor after 90 minutes. The Rams may still be searching for their first win - and first goals - of the season, and that would mean that the Stars may find it harder to break down the team. In the words of Johan, "the local clubs always perform a notch higher when they face us (Etoile FC). It is a cup final to them.". Arena would do good to realise that the Stars have to perform to their usual standards if they want to leave Woodlands Stadium with all 3 points. Moreover, the team should realise by now that there is no easy games in the S-League, even against Tanjong Pagar FC, and all opponents have to be respected, irregardless of their strature.

Prediction: Etoile FC 2 Woodlands Wellington 0

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