Goalkeeper gap

Goalkeeper gap

They are the newly-crowned champions of Singapore and will represent the nation in the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, which kicks off in February.

But Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions Warriors FC may have to defend their domestic title and fight to progress in the continent's elite club competition without an experienced goalkeeper.

Last season's No. 1 Hassan Sunny played a key role in the Warriors' run to the title and was rewarded for his efforts when he was named the S.League Player of the Year.

But Tampines Rovers have prised the Singapore No. 1 away from the Warriors, who are now left with only new signing Daniel Ong as goalkeeper.

Ong, 25, spent the previous season at Home United as a reserve goalkeeper.

Before that, he was in Balestier's Prime League squad, making the leap to the S.League in 2013, also as a back-up custodian.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Warriors coach Alex Weaver said the club are on the hunt for a first-choice goalkeeper and cited Hougang's Fadhil Salim as a possible signing.

Fadhil, however, still has a year left on his contract with the Cheetahs and Weaver said: "The situation is in the hands of the chairmen (of both clubs) now. Out of respect for Hougang and Fadhil, I can't comment further on this.

"We also have a couple of other options if Fadhil doesn't pan out, although I won't mention names yet.

"I've also been in touch with (national coach) Bernd Stange about goalkeepers in the Courts Young Lions and LionsXII set-up.

"I'm not worried about the situation. If this was Jan 1, then I would say 'yes', but there's still time."

YOUNG BLOOD

Weaver, who last season blooded young winger S Suria Prakash in the first-team squad, insisted he had no reservations fielding an inexperienced goalkeeper, if need be.

"No matter who we bring in, it would be unfair to compare him to Hassan, who is Singapore's No. 1," he said.

"Having said that, I'm willing to give a new goalkeeper a chance... I'm confident that if we give players an opportunity, you can be pleasantly surprised."

The Warriors will take on Myanmar's Yadanarbon in the AFC Champions League first play-off round on Feb 4.

If the Singapore side prevail, they will then take on China's Guangzhou R&F on Feb 10 and the winners will take on Australia's Central Coast Mariners on Feb 17, with the victors moving into the main draw of the competition.

Should the Warriors fall at any point in the Champions League play-offs, they will then play in Group E of the AFC Cup, with Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura, India's Bengaluru and either Maldives' Maziya or Ceres from the Philippines.

Weaver has retained all five of his imports - Marin Vidosevic, Thomas Beattie, Kevin McCann, Miroslav Pejic and Nicolas Velez - from last season, and added local players Syaqir Sulaiman, Fazli Jaffar, Emmeric Ong and Marcus Wheeler.

Aside from a goalkeeper, the Warriors could also add fullback Hamqaamal Shah to their books.

The 29-year-old's contract with Geylang runs out on Dec 31.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 16, 2014.
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