S.League Review Round 1: Stags cruise, Hafiz scores stunner

Defending champions Tampines Rovers got their 2013 campaign off to a flying start, while Hafiz Nor hit a cracking goal for the Jaguars
By Khalis Rifhan

What a week it was for Singapore football, as fans were treated to 15 goals in six S.League matches, with Round 1 being capped off by a beauty of a goal from Tanjong Pagar’s Hafiz Nor at the Jalan Besar Stadium. 

There was also great news on the youth development front, as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced on late Saturday evening that young starlet Adam Swandi had secured a two-year contract with French club FC Metz.

The 2013 S.League season started with a bang as Tampines Rovers made known their intentions to retain the title by crushing Geylang International by five unanswered goals at the Bedok Stadium.

On the same day, the match between Courts Young Lions and Hougang United was delayed by nearly two hours due to a lightning alert, but the Cheetahs ran out eventual 1-0 winners thanks to a Syaqir Sulaiman goal.

Day Two saw both matches end in draws but there was more excitement in the stands at the Woodlands Stadium as the home fans were entertained by a magical performance from their star player, former Dutch Under-21 player Khalid Hamdaoui.

The former Raja Casablanca and Dundee FC player was instrumental as he dominated the middle of the field with new signing Atsushi Shimono and they were unlucky not to grab all three points as Warriors FC fought back twice to deny the Rams in a 2-2 draw.

On the same night, Home United and Brunei DPMM played out a goalless draw, a result that was not ideal for both coaches, who are looking to challenge the Stags for the league title. 

The final day saw a handful of Albirex Niigata (S) fans making a midday journey up north to Johor to watch their idols in action against Harimau Muda B at the Pasir Gudang Stadium.

Kazuki Sakamoto scored in the sixth minute of the game and that proved to be the winner, as the White Swans survived a late assault from the Young Tigers in the last quarter of the match to secure all three points.

The day was capped off with end-to-end, non-stop action at the Jalan Besar Stadium, where Jaguars marquee signing Monsef Zerka and midfielder Kamel Ramdan scored a goal each in the first ten minutes of the game against Balestier Khalsa.

The Tigers staged a late assault on their opponents in the second half and Park Kang Jin pulled a goal back for the team five minutes after the restart. But the game was put to bed when substitute Hafiz Nor hit a stunning volley from a tight angle in the 90th minute to seal an impressive opening-day victory for Tanjong Pagar United.

Speaking to Goal.com Singapore after the game, a clearly delighted Hafiz said: “Despite coming on late in the game, I still gave my best. I just gave my all and I am happy to score a goal for the team.” 

With the way the new 2013 season has started, things look set to get better as the campaign progresses, so here's calling all fans to make time during the week and come down to watch the various clubs in action at a stadium near you, as nothing beats watching the game live at a stadium itself!