Match Preview: Eunos And Sporting Westlake Lock Horns In Division One Opener

Eunos Crescent FC with the NFL Division 1 trophy last season.
Photo: Eunos Crescent Football Club

Aaron Chan
Writer / Editor
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

The 2017 NFL Division 1 will kick off this coming Saturday (22 April 2017) with a crunch match between defending champions Eunos Crescent and the second runners-up of last season, GFA Sporting Westlake.

Both teams have seen large shake-ups to their squad lists with Eunos losing six players to the up-and-coming Yishun Sentek Mariners during the off season while Sporting Westlake has retained only six players from their 2016 campaign.

Eunos have wasted no time in the weeks leading up to the new season, boosting their ranks with former S.League players Lau Meng Meng, Goh Swee Swee (both formerly of Hougang United), and what must be the marquee capture for the NFL this season – former Singapore international Indra Sahdan Daud. The 38 year old Indra, who has 113 caps and almost 250 goals in all competitions, will be playing for Eunos under the club’s mentor slot.

Indra Sahdan in Eunos Crescent's training kit
Photo: Eunos Crescent Football Club

The champions’ squad list is nothing short of spectacular with captain Jonathan Xu and Tengku Mushadad both seasoned campaigners during their respective times in the S.League, and Eunos coach Mohamed Mardani is spoilt for choice with the slate of promising youngsters at his disposal like defender Indra Hafriefendy and attacking midfielders Firdaus Junadi and Osman Shainin, the latter which left a deep impression during the pre-season with his explosive pace and outstanding ball control.

Speaking to The Unofficial S.League Podcast, Eunos Crescent team manager Darwin Jalil was looking forward to the new season. “The NFL would be exciting both on and off the pitch this season. There are so many initiatives taking place which will boost the competition and many teams have also revamped their squads to adapt to the ever changing landscape of Singapore football. Eunos Crescent will definitely be putting up our best effort to retain the NFL Division 1 title.”

Darwin is also looking forward to watching his team back in action after the long pre-season break. “The attacking quartet of Indra Sahdan, Jonathan Xu, Osman Shainin and Goh Swee Swee will definitely be the key highlight of our squad this season.” said the jovial 32 year old, who is also the club president of Eunos Crescent FC and a former member of the Singapore Rugby Team.

Off the pitch, Eunos Crescent has also been making waves by obtaining a sponsorship from PSB Academy, which will be working with Eunos’s team members to explore options for higher education off the field, as well as signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with VVV-Venlo, who just gained promotion to the Eredivisie, the highest echelon of football in the Netherlands. The MOU will see a players and coaches exchange between both clubs in September this year.

Sporting Westlake, on the other hand, is in the process of rebuilding their team after seeing players like Zul Feshal - who was the club’s top scorer with 17 goals last season - and goalkeeper Asyraf Asyfar depart for Yishun and coach Akihiro Nakamura will be placing his faith in a relatively new team boasting plenty of fresh faces.

The club, which was formed in 1973 in Westlake Avenue and played in the Toa Payoh area (hence the name Sporting Westlake), is affiliated with the Japanese-owned Global Football Academy (GFA), giving rise to their nickname, The Young Samurais. The Oriental connection however, does not just end with coach Nakamura as this season’s squad will include two Japanese imports, one of which is 25 year old attacking midfielder Yuto Nagai, who has been with the club since 2015 and featured in that season’s League Cup campaign against Albirex Niigata and Home United.

GFA Sporting Westlake Squad
Photo: Global Football Academy

GFA Sporting Westlake’s player under the mentor slot is 43 year old Jumari Semin, one of the most experienced players in the NFL while the Young Samurais have also retained skipper Hakim Abdullah, who turned out for the Singapore U16s in the Lion City Cup in the 90s, along with Na’eem Malek.

Sporting Westlake club secretary Zairi Ahmari was candid about his thoughts for the upcoming season: “We do not want to put too much pressure on ourselves even though we finished third in the 1st Division last season. Our players know that they have everything to play for and that they will be rewarded well if the team performs.”

The Unofficial S.League Podcast understands that last season’s cohort was treated to an overseas trip to Vietnam after finishing as second runners-up and the club’s generous treatment of its players would no doubt give them extra motivation to play well.

The match between the two kicks off at 7:30pm at Jalan Besar Stadium and it should be an interesting affair as it would set the tone for what promises to be an exciting NFL season up ahead.

In the other match happening on the same day, the NFL Division 2 season opener will see Warwick Knights will take on Kembangan United earlier at Jalan Besar as well. The Warwick – Kembangan encounter kicks off at 5pm and admission is free for both matches.

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