3-way tie for S-League crown

3-way tie for S-League crown
Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver (second from right) putting his charges through their paces during training as they big to win their ninth S-League crown.

These are stressful times for the fat lady who sings. With three football clubs still in contention for this year's S-League title, an exciting finish to the championship race is in store on Friday when the last fixtures are played.

Warriors FC lead the table with 50 points and have one match to go against Albirex Niigata but challengers Brunei DPMM (47) and Albirex (44) both have a game in hand. Meanwhile, last season's champions Tampines Rovers (46) have been dethroned.

It is possible that the fog over the trophy's final destination can clear after tonight when Albirex host DPMM, coached by former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean, at the Jurong East Stadium.

Watching intently will be Warriors coach Alex Weaver, who said: "It's an exciting end to the season but, unfortunately for us, things are out of our hands now and we have to hope DPMM slips up one way or another.

"We'll be rooting for Albirex but not on Friday, when we need to beat them to stand a chance of winning the title."

Geylang International fan Adam Chia welcomes the title drama and hopes the buzz will bring more fans through the turnstiles.

The 22-year-old national serviceman said: "When titles were wrapped up early in previous seasons, fans stick to how their clubs are doing and not care much about the S-League.

"But, with title races like this, it gives the competition a lift and even generates interest among non-followers curious to see how the drama unfolds."

Victory over the Japanese side and Tampines at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday will give DPMM their first S-League title.

To spice things up, Albirex are mathematically not out of the equation yet, as they meet the two leading clubs with the intention of spoiling the party.

White Swans coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama is refusing to give up, saying: "There have been unexpected results in the season - like Balestier Khalsa's good form at this stage - so we can upset the odds, defeat DPMM and Warriors, and win the S-League title."

Indeed, DPMM are in patchy form in the final straight, losing twice and drawing once in their last three games.

That has not dented Kean's confidence. The Scot, who already masterminded the team's League Cup win in July, said: "Obviously, our (next two games) won't be easy but our fate is still in our own hands.

"It's time to finish the job we started this season."

If DPMM hoist the title aloft, they will be the second S-League champions from overseas after French outfit Etoile FC edged out Tampines and Home United in a three-way contest in the final round of fixtures in 2010.

But final-day drama is not new to Singapore's professional football league.

In 2011, Tampines saw off Home's challenge by just one point in the nick of time.

Another thrilling season finale in the league's 19-year history came in 2007 when the Warriors won the sixth of their eight S-League crowns after coming out tops in a three-way fight with Tampines and Home.

In 2001, a win for Geylang United (now called Geylang International) in the final fixture secured their second S-League title and ended the challenge from Home and the Warriors.

Fast forward 13 years, and the league is on the verge of yet another nail-biting episode which Chia will watch. But just like the fat lady who sings, he cannot decide if he wants to be at Jalan Besar or Choa Chu Kang.

But he has this rallying cry: "Fans should come down for the final games as it'll be thrilling to witness how the title race may swing from one team to another.

"You never know what will happen on the final day, which should make for an interesting night out."

terong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on October 28, 2014.
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