Voices From The Ground: What Did Both Sets Of Fans Think About The 'Uniformed Derby'?

Andrei Cosmin Ciolacu (right) is proving to be a fan favourite despite
only joining the Warriors in the mid-season transfer window.

Chris Peng
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

The match started on a poor note when the Announcer claimed that it was a 'Uniformed Derby'. It’s factually inaccurate as the Warriors are no longer associated with the Singapore Army, rendering thoughts of the game being played between the Police and Army null and void.

Both teams had their chances. Irfan Fandi took three tries but eventually managed to break the deadlock while Shahril Ishak’s penalty returned the game to an all square state before half time.

Neither fan base came close to being the 12th man but the Warriors faithful did outvoice the Protector’s supporters, although they couldn’t really change what happened on the pitch regardless.

Warriors’ winger Jordan Webb was lively in the first half but was snuffed out as the clock went by. Shahril Ishak often plowed a lone furrow upfront while Romanian import Andrei Cosmin Ciolacu was reduced to a single shot on target. Fatigue definitely played a part in the reduction of their effectiveness as the Protectors did not fare much better as their much vaunted strike-force of Stipe Plazibat and Faris Ramli were often outnumbered by the Warriors’ defense.

Warriors’ Emmeric Ong made the right flank his own while the Protectors’ Hariss Harun did not put a foot wrong defensively .Hyrulnizam Juma’at and Hassan Sunny both proved to be a safe pair of hands between the sticks as well.

Try as they might, the offensive players simply had their limelights stolen by their defensive comrades. Penetrative play came at a premium for both sides.

While the Protectors enjoyed the bigger piece of the possession pie, they did not make it count. The Warriors may have seen less of the ball but did look threatening at times. A draw wasn’t an unfair result, in my opinion.

The Warriors would have enjoyed the night more as they started the game as underdogs and did not suffer any major injuries. The Protectors were not as fortunate. Hassan Sunny suffered a deep facial cut while Irfan Fandi had to be substituted off as he appeared to be in a daze, possibly due to an earlier challenge.

That’s not to say that there were no positives. Home United was able to give fringe players such as Haziq Azman and Iqram Rifqi a run out.

Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin wasn’t as happy. Obviously he was concerned about his injured players. He was disappointed and wasn’t sure about his team’s performance but suggested that they could be trying to stay injury free due to the AFC Zonal Finals in the following week. He also felt that his squad was missing a number of key players such as Khairul Nizam, Song Ui-Young and Sirina Camara. In addition, his Singapore Under-22 internationals had just returned the day before and his squad was looking lean. He took comfort in the fact that his team did create chances and did not feel that it was a lean night for his offense. That being said, he is looking forward to see his previously unavailable players rejoining his squad for the encounter against Ceres Negros.

Warriors Head Coach Razif Onn displayed great pride as his fatigued side was able to prevent Stipe Plazibat and Faris Ramli from scoring as the Warriors had played 5 matches in the span of 2 weeks. While being proud of his team’s achievement, he was wary of the chasing pack led by Hougang United and Geylang International. He was also visibly happy when asked about his goalkeeper Hyrulnizam’s performance, feeling that he recovered well from his setback during the League Cup final. He also felt that his team was motivated and took every game seriously, as if it was the final game and his gratitude towards his side was evident.

Pre-Match interview with Home United Fan Daniel Lau

Q: Edging out Global FC and Albirex Niigata must feel like a century ago. Home United was riding a huge wave of optimism after those spectacular results. Since then, your club lost against Hougang United and barely defeated valiant underdogs Balestier Khalsa. It’s been a sub par League Cup campaign as well. Other than obvious facts like missing key players during the League Cup, what other reasons can you think of regarding your club’s recent form?

A: Losing Song was a huge blow in our campaign, as you can see, we haven't had any decent games in his absence other than the one against Albirex Niigata. Without him, we lacked the creativity in midfield to carve out chances for our side and as Hariss has once mentioned, "playing with him is like playing with an extra man". I just hope that he'll be back in time for the AFC Cup Zonal Finals, otherwise we might be in for 2 long nights.

Q: The much vaunted title race has taken on new dimensions. Warriors and Hougang United can take a lot of credit from their respective League Cup campaigns. Do you see them translating their Cup form to the league and pushing the top 3 all the way?

A: They might, and especially for Warriors FC with their new signing Andrei Cosmin Ciolacu. They were unfortunate to miss out on the League Cup but everyone watching that final knows that this Warriors side isn't short on quality. That fact will definitely make tonight's match all the more interesting.

Q: Stipe Plazibat has carried on his form, scoring in 2 out of 3 cup games. His spectacular form is sure to earn many admiring glances. Cue (former Home United striker) Ken Ilsø , he is having a spectacular season with Kedah. Other clubs may feel that poaching the top Home United striker may be the way to go. How concerned are you?

A: I do not wish to comment on this.

Q: Touchy topic, indeed. Fringe players such as Haziq Azman, Marijan Suto, Luqman Ismail and Iqram Rifqi got some much needed game time. Iqram did particularly well against the warriors. Do you see this as a big positive?

A: It's positive for our fringe players to have some game time but I won't consider it as a big positive. It may after all be a one-off tournament for them to showcase themselves. In all honesty, I doubt that a number of them would actually be fielded again for the rest of the season.

Q: Home United has had to endure a real gruelling campaign thus far. Do you think that the enforced rest before the Warriors encounter was a good thing? Was it a blessing in disguise?

A: The enforced rest due to the League Cup elimination is never something to be proud of but yes, I hope that it gives time for the players to recover, recuperate and come back rejuvenated for the big game tonight.

Q: As we know, the Warriors overturned a 1-3 deficit about two weeks ago. Psychologically, how do you think your club should handle it?

A: It might be tough on them because this is the second time we let a two-goal lead slip against the same team. That being said, I'm pretty sure that the team would be more determined to make things right this time round, I definitely won't be celebrating so early even if we were to take a two-goal lead for tonight's match!

Q: Win and inch to the top, lose and let the Warriors into the fight. Do you think this will affect how the Coach prepares for the game?

A: There's definitely some psychological factor involved here, but I believe the coach will stick to his usual game plan and go for the 3 points.

Q: I'm going to end this with the usual mind versus heart debate before we head into the match. Would you like to guess the final score?

A: I'm guessing a 3-1 victory for Home.

Post-Match interview with Home United Fan Daniel Lau

Q: Was it 1 point gained or 2 points lost?

A: 2 points lost definitely. A win would have put some pressure on Albirex tomorrow but this is football. I'm happy though that despite missing a number of key players due to injuries and suspensions, we managed to forge out a decent enough performance to claim a point but it could have been better.

Q: While your club looked to capitalize on tired opponents, they had to keep one eye out for the AFC Zonal Finals. Do you think that affected their performance?

A: Probably, this match couldn't have came at a wrong timing. For me, instead of aiming for 3 points, the main objective tonight was to finish the match injury free. All the more, I'm concerned about Hassan and Irfan, who both sustained injuries tonight. I hope they will be fine by the time the Zonal Finals take place.

Q: Are you worried about your club’s current form ahead of the crucial game next week? Song may be even more missed than we thought.

A: Yes, indeed he was. Prior to the injury, he has been winning all the headers and keeping it steady at the back, he was definitely a loss once he was subbed out. I mentioned from the start that our current form is largely due to Song's absence. I've mentioned this point before the match, I maintain this point after this match. Honestly I hope he makes it back in time for the zonal finals.

Q: I know that you have a soft spot for former players. Hyrulnizam took some flak for his error during the League Cup final. He redeemed himself with a solid performance tonight. Was it more bitter or more sweet for you?

A: Of course i feel bitter, at the end of the day, we are wearing different colours, and football is about which colour takes the 3 points, not about which player you have a soft spot for.

Q: Home United dominated parts of the game but the penetration wasn’t there. Do you think your team is too reliant on Stipe or Faris for the goals?

A: It's unfair to say that we are too reliant on the two of them, especially when Irfan was the one who got the goal tonight. It's just that the Warriors managed to keep it tight at the back, especially for most parts of the second half. That’s why we couldn't penetrate, they did well in shutting out our goal threats and credit to them for that.

Q: While the term ‘Uniform Derby’ is flawed as the Warriors are no longer affiliated with the Army, did it feel like a game of such significance to you?

A: The bigger significance is in the bearing of both teams' title chances by the end of the season, rather than it being a uniformed derby. Besides, let the turnout tonight decide whether it's that significant of a game for the fans or not.

(Writer's Note: The fact that an ICC match was being played at the same time must have affected the turnout.)

Q: Were there any positives that you could take from this match?

A: The fact that we managed to obtain a point despite fielding just one of our quality foreigners is commendable. That being said, right now the focus will be on the zonal final and bringing back some glory for local football.

Pre-Match interview with Warriors Fan / Matchday SG Founder Dilshan Amarasekara

Q: The Warriors enjoyed a fruitful start to the season, winning 4 and drawing 2 mathes. The wheels fell off a little, losing the next 4 games. The Cup defeat against Boeung Ket was a particularly bitter pill to take. With all due respect, the Cambodian side aren’t a top tier team. As a supporter, what kind of emotions were you experiencing during that time frame?

A: It was a tough period. Especially when I believed that we had a good squad, one that’s capable of challenging at the top, at least till the end of the season. But that's football. You win some and you lose some. But credit to the team for turning it around.

Q: Subsequently, the League Cup has proven to be a bit of a renaissance. The victory after going behind against the Protectors was spectacular. The trouncing of DPMM proved that any proclamation of Brunei based club’s revival is premature. What can you tell us about this seesaw period emotion wise?

A: Now that we know the result of the final, I tend to look back on the cup run with pride. When the groups were announced, several in our Matchday SG group suggested Warriors will probably end up bottom in the group of death. I must admit that I too feared the worst. But they made full use the biggest strength they had: Experience and resilience. Even when they were 3-1 down against Home or when they had to keep out the Hougang in the last 10 mins of the match, they didn't give up. They showed all of us, including me, what they are all about.

Q: Joel Tshibamba, scorer of 4 goals, was replaced by Andrei Cosmin Ciolacu. Within 5 games, he has equaled the total of his predecessor. What’s your initial assessment of your ex-Romanian Under-21 striker?

A: Tshibamba scored the goals but a lot of us in the stands felt that he didn't really fit in. Andrei on the other hand is amazing. The moment I saw him on the pitch in the first match, i was delighted to see that he was running for every ball and forcing defenders to make the decisions. He looked hungry and he looked like he wanted to be here. I usually don't message players on social media but I just had to thank Andrei after the Home U match!

Q: Due to injuries and perhaps due to form, we have seen all 4 of your keepers in action, an anomaly for goalkeepers. Given a choice, whose your first choice and why?

A: Tough one! Having to rotate keepers meant that none of them really got the chance to settle into the season. I thought Basil Chan had a good start to the season.. But after his performance against Albirex in the final, Hayrulnizam has to be my first choice now! He was a giant in goal. It was unfortunate that a rare mistake by him cost us a goal. I hope he gets the game time needed to become one of the best in the league.

Q: People often describe Tampines Rovers as a dad’s army. Looking at your squad, there are a number of players on the wrong side of 30 too, with Hyrulnizam, Shaiful Esah, Hafiz Osman, Ridhuan Muhammad and Poh Yifeng, just to name a few. The notable captures of Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak didn’t help the average age statistic either. Is age really just a number or are you bothered by the fitness of the aging players?

A: I knew this was coming (laughs). Yes, we have an older squad. But this isn't exactly a bad thing! If youth was better, we would be seeing the Young Lions on top, isn’t it? In a league like ours, experience counts. These gents have been there and done that. Our comeback wins / draws throughout the season is proof of that, although I must say I wouldn't mind a few more younger players coming through. It would be a waste if all the knowledge of the older players are not passed down.

Q: The much vaunted title race has taken on new dimensions. Warriors and Hougang United can take a lot of credit for their League Cup campaign. Do you see your team translating their Cup form to the league and pushing the top 3 all the way? As you know, the Warriors overturned a 1-3 deficit about two weeks ago. Psychologically, how do you think your club should handle it?

A: I am an optimist! I dream of a challenge for an AFC Cup spot! But I have to be honest and say that this is going to be a tough campaign. I will be behind the boys no matter where we end up!

Q:Based on how Jordan Webb has been playing, how do you feel about his bid to be naturalised and to play for Singapore?

A: Yes please! I believe Jordan has proved that he wants to be here and be part of the +65 family. Let's give him the opportunity to give back to Singapore.

Q: Win and inch towards the giants or lose and fall back into the wilderness of mid table. Do you think this will affect the Coach’s preparations for the game? What di you think would be the score for this game?

A: Tough decision for Razif Onn to make. But against Home, we always bring the A game to the field. It would be sweet to taste a 3-1 victory over them!

Post-Match interview with Warriors Fan/Matchday SG Founder Dilshan Amarasekara

Q: Was it 1 point gained or 2 points lost?

A: Given the tight schedule we are on and given that Home U was quite fresh, I think we have to be happy with the point.

Q:You mentioned that you hope that Hyrulnizam will bounce back and come good. He certainly had a solid game. What are your thoughts on this?

A: He did! Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the game because of the crossbar challenge we did at the Sports Hub. That being said, from the highlights reel I saw that he was a giant between the sticks! Nice to see him step up to the plate!

Q: Home United dominated parts of the game but lacked the penetration to really test your defense. Was it a relief?

A: Home U is a naturally attacking team. I think it would have been naive for us to believe we could have stopped their attacking intent. Luckily, our defense was solid and kept to the plan. You have to give the boys credit for that. It's never easy against Home United. I feel more than relief, I am glad that we had a game plan against them.

Q:Fatigue definitely mattered but it was a battling performance from your side. Are you proud of their performance?

A:Indeed! This season we have shown that we are a team with great character. No matter how tired we are as the battle goes on. Remember that the (League Cup) final went into extra time too but they still mustered the energy to fight a derby match. Very proud of their attitude!

Q: Emmeric Ong also had a great performance in my opinion. He was solid defensively and even had a few rampaging runs down the right flank. Do you see a Juma'at Jantan in him?

A: Not sure what Emmeric has been doing before the past few matches but he should keep doing it! He has been solid for us! Why would I want to see another Juma'at Jantan when we have our very own Emmeric Ong!

Q:While the term ‘Uniform Derby’ is flawed as the Warriors are no longer affiliated with the Army, did it feel like a game of such significance to you?

A: Yes. The match still feels special! Especially for me as a significant amount of my friends in the local football community are Home United fans. So on a personal level this match is important for me!

Q: Do you think that your team managed to translate their League Cup form to the league based on tonight’s performance?

A: I wish I could have been there to judge that myself. But from what I saw in the highlights we certainly had that Cup magic still running through our veins!

Q:While your team was solid defensively, offensively it was limited. Shafril Ishak often plowed a lone furrow up front. A penny for your thoughts?

A: When you face a team like Home United and their attacking prowess, any opposing team must take care of its defence. I understand why Coach Razif would have wanted to go with a lone striker. But let's hope that we will be able to see more of an attacking flair that we know we are capable of!