Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Preview: Gombak United vs Etoile FC

The Stars are heading West in their next S-League encounter, taking on Gombak United FC at the Jurong West Stadium. Etoile FC will no doubt look at the last time they played at Jurong West Stadium as though it was a scar in their championship debut season. Then, Etoile FC were crowned the League Cup Champions, on a 10-match unbeaten run and seemingly invincible until a goal midway in the second half saw the Frenchmen tasted defeat for the first time in Singapore. Gombak United had thus, grew their reputation as the 'nemesis' for the Stars, as the Stars find it tough to break down their defence despite being blessed by playmakers like Michellini, Boudjema and the talented Frederic Mendy (who had since left for Home United).

Back to 2011, and the Stars have every reasons to record their first win at the Western most stadium in Singapore tonight (1st March 2011) having stay undefeated in the League (win over Geylang United and Draw against Balestier Khalsa).

First, Bah Mamahdou who had formed a great partnership with Obadin Aikhena last season has left the Bulls to join Championship contenders SAFFC. The loss of Bah had resulted in the Bulls' leaky defence this season - failing to keep a clean sheet in both games this season. While one could argue that it was against championship contenders in the form of Tampines Rovers (1-1) and Home United (0-3) but the composure shown by the Bulls' defense suggest that Etoile FC could just find the net in tonight's encounter. Zaiful Nizam in particular would have to roll up his socks if he wants a first clean sheet of the season.

Secondly, the loss of Goran Subara meant that the Bulls lost a dominant figure in the middle of the park. As expected, Maxime Belouet should start against Gombak United in the middle, and with either Sutomoh or Jamaludin being placed in the middle, crucial balls could be lost to the Stars there, resulting in quick counter attaks launched from the flanks.

The most important factor is arguably the man that the Bulls have to get the ball past is in the form of his life - Antonin Trilles. Against Tampines Rovers in the League Cup, fatigue and miscommunication saw Trilles picking the ball out from his net twice, but otherwise, had a great game in a competitive debut for the team. In the next 2 games, 2 clean sheets in succession is a testament to his ability.

Korean Connection in Gombak United
The 'Kimchi' connection of Kwon Jin Sung, Chang Jo Yoon and Park Kang Jin should pose a handful for the defence duo of Aymard and Talhi, although the Koreans were silent in their last game - against 30-somethings in the form of Valery Hiek and Kenji Arai. Looking at the way the Stars' defence had been operating in recent games, the Korean connections should not be given too much space, especially to Park, in order to mute the attack. It is also noteworthy that Park Kang Jin usually finds his footing only in the later part of the game, so closing Kwon in the early stages would do good for the Stars, as Kwon would fade out after 70 minutes or so - as evident by his performance in the last game.

Clean Sheet and Undefeatable Record on the Line
For the Stars, there is no greater motivation than consecutive clean sheets and an undefeatable record on the line in tonight's game. Termed by many as a pale shadow as compared to the 2010 championship winning squad, a win at Jurong West Stadium would go a long way in silencing the critics - at least for now. However, to do that, improvements have to made, considering that Kevin Lefranc would be back in the squad from suspension.

Etoile FC got to Improve on the Following
(a) Finishing: Moulin, and in particular, Justin, have to be sharper in front of goal and not waste chances, like against Balestier Khalsa FC. Despite the many chances that the midfield had created, the strikers cannot seemed to pull off the chances. Moulin, in particular, missed a point blank header which potentially could be the decider. If the Stars want to challenge for the title, they need to start scoring, and convert draws (1 point) to wins (3 points).

(b) Julien Durant: The dynamic midfielder have been given at least 3 good opportunites in the previous game against the Tigers, and a total of 7 clear chances this season already, but have failed to convert a single one. Perhaps still not accustomised to environment here, but if he maintains such 'form', it may be wise to bench him for a couple of games.

(c) Creativity: In tight games like this, it usually takes a moment of brilliance to settle the tie. Last season, players like Boudjema, Michellini or Yann will step up to create this sparkling moment. In the current Etoile squad, there is still a 'creativity' gap in the squad. Unless the team finds the players to provide this spark, a tight defence would effectively means a stalemate at best.

Etoile FC, though, should win this, if they could effectively run Obadin rugged, whilst containing the Korean trio attacking impetus. That said, if Trilles is at his best, there is no reason why a 3rd consecutive clean sheet and a 1st victory at Jurong West Stadium is not possible. Our Pick: Etoile 2 Gombak United 0. The writer would also go as far as to back Lefranc to score tonight - if he managed to play a part in the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment