Football: Faris Ramli eyes Ilhan Fandi’s tally as Tampines prepare for Albirex test

Faris Ramli (centre) scored his fourth league goal as Tampines Rovers triumphed 3-1 at Bishan Stadium on March 14, 2023. PHOTO: TAMPINES ROVERS

SINGAPORE – With four goals in as many matches for his new club Tampines Rovers, Faris Ramli is a man on fire this season.

The national forward’s output for the 2023 Singapore Premier League campaign is remarkable, considering that he has already matched half of his total tally for the Lion City Sailors in 2021 and 2022.

Asked for the reason behind his prolific form, the 30-year-old said: “I think the biggest difference this year is me finally being myself.

“I feel like I’m just doing what I love and working hard for it.

“I’m fortunate to have coach Gavin (Lee) and all the other staff at Tampines, including chairman Desmond (Ong), all believing in me and wanting me to excel. It is a fresh start for me.”

He will hope to carry his rich vein of form into Sunday’s crunch clash against defending champions Albirex Niigata, who trail the second-placed Stags by one point but have played a game less.

The 2019 SPL Player of the Year has struggled since netting a personal-best 16 league goals for Hougang United that season.

Following a brief spell at Malaysia Super League side Terengganu in 2020, he turned out for the Sailors in 2021 and 2022, when he had eight goals in 41 appearances.

Tampines coach Lee said Faris’ purple patch stemmed from “a mutual understanding that he could do better”.

Lee said: “When Faris joined us, we showed him his goals and assists numbers from last season.

“It’s nothing magical this year but just understanding him as far as we can and trying to create better situations for him to excel.”

Faris’ four-match scoring run is a feat that he has not achieved since chalking up seven goals in a six-game stretch from August to September 2019 with Hougang.

While he is focused on helping his new club challenge for honours, he also has one eye on eclipsing Ilhan Fandi’s tally of 17 league goals, which was the highest by a local last season.

“I would be lying if I said that breaking Ilhan’s tally is not what I want to achieve this year,” he said. “It’s something I want to moving forward but ultimately the team comes first.

“I hope both come together, then everyone will be happy.”

Faris, who had rejected Tampines twice before joining his boyhood club this season, also hopes to mentor a new wave of younger players.

“They have a lot of qualities and I hope they can spread their wings and fly,” he added.

“I will be here to guide them along and this is another reason the club signed me. It is something I look forward to doing.”

He will certainly have to set the tone against Albirex, who have yet to concede after three matches.

Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga is confident in his team’s calibre as they prepare to face an in-form Faris.

“I don’t particular mind the threat of Faris. We will stick to our usual game plan,” he said.

Young Lions v Hougang
(Saturday, 6pm, Jalan Besar)

After two straight defeats, Hougang will be aiming to bounce back against a winless Young Lions side. The Cheetahs are languishing in seventh place having picked up just three points from three games. Anything less than a win would be a disappointment for Hougang.

Lion City Sailors v Balestier
(Saturday, 6pm, Bishan)

The Sailors toiled to a 3-0 victory over Geylang without talisman Kodai Tanaka – ruled out for the season – and will face another tricky test against Peter de Roo’s Balestier. The Tigers are currently the league’s highest-scoring outfit with 10 goals and fans can expect a goal fest on a night where the Sailors would relish the opportunity to go top.

Brunei DPMM v Geylang
(Sunday, 6pm, Jalan Besar)

Sixth-placed DPMM picked up their first win of the season on Tuesday against Tanjong Pagar and will face another gritty opponent in Geylang. The Eagles registered 17 shots on goal in their last outing against the Sailors but came away empty handed. Noor Ali’s men will be fired up for a response but DPMM have the quality to ensure an evenly fought contest.

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