Title race going down to the wire

Tampines Rovers' Jordan Webb being challenged by SPL leaders Brunei DPMM's Abdul Mu'iz Sisa when they met on June 22. Webb scored Tampines' second goal in their 3-1 win. ST FILE PHOTO
Tampines Rovers' Jordan Webb being challenged by SPL leaders Brunei DPMM's Abdul Mu'iz Sisa when they met on June 22. Webb scored Tampines' second goal in their 3-1 win.ST FILE PHOTO

Inconsistency costs contenders, with just eight points separating S'pore Premier League's top four

After Albirex Niigata's romp to victory in the last two seasons, fans are now seeing one of the tightest - and most open - title races in years as the Singapore Premier League (SPL) enters its final stretch.

Just eight points separate Brunei DPMM, Albirex, Tampines Rovers and Hougang United.

The last time it came down to the wire was in 2015, when DPMM were crowned champions on the final day.

Few had predicted that DPMM would lead the charge, taking their total to 37 points from 18 games after beating Geylang International 3-0 last night.

But Adrian Pennock's team now have to fend off their challengers, after consecutive losses to Home United and Hougang.

With only seven games remaining, only two points separate defending champions Albirex (31), Tampines (30) and Hougang (29).

Albirex missed out on a chance to close the gap after losing 1-0 to Geylang last week and drawing 3-3 with Home the week before.

Tampines are back in the hunt after recovering their winning form and will meet Home at Our Tampines Hub tonight.

Fourth-placed Hougang are on the rise following back-to-back victories against the top two teams, but Clement Teo's side also dropped points against Tampines after their 4-2 loss last Saturday.

This inconsistency among the top four teams has resulted in a tight title race, said former Woodlands Wellington coach Shasi Kumar.

"We know that Brunei are a solid side but they have stuttered in the past two games," said the 43-year-old football commentator.

"Albirex started poorly but they have changed almost their entire team and it shows.

"Injuries played a big role in the season as well."

While surprised by Hougang's strong showing, they "tend to falter along the way" and he expects one of the top three to prevail.

Football blogger Ko Po Hui, 43, added that DPMM's lack of consistency and recent injuries to key players such as goalkeeper Wardun Yussof and top scorer Andrey Varankow might give a local team an opportunity to top the table.

Ko said: "The local teams need to maintain their consistency. We have seen in the past that unnecessary slip-ups along the way will mean disaster.

"This season is the best opportunity to end the so-called 'foreign domination'.

"The champions will be the most consistent team, and that is Tampines Rovers for now."

Shasi has picked DPMM for their quality and sees their run-in of four home games, including against Albirex, Tampines and Hougang, as a "major contributing factor".

He said: "Tampines and Hougang have quality local players and the right foreign players. That will surely help them but I think Brunei will still win the league."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Title race going down to the wire'. Print Edition | Subscribe