League Cup: Bok sticking to winning formula
Photography by Aundry Gan
Coming up against Bruneian side DPMM FC in their final StarHub League Cup Group A match on Wednesday evening, SAFFC head coach Richard Bok will be depending on a similar lineup as the one that beat Tanjong Pagar United to help secure qualification for the Warriors.
Bok counted on his fringe players to make a winning start to this leg of the club’s three-pronged campaign, and they responded brilliantly, scoring three goals while conceding none at Choa Chu Kang.
Former Tanjong Pagar midfielder Aliff Shafaein grabbed a brace, while 20-year-old Marin Jonjic, making his first-team debut after impressing in the Prime League, also netted a late goal as the Warriors comfortably brushed Tanjong Pagar aside.
Along with Jonjic, goalkeeper Rezal Hassan and wingback Ruzaini Zainal were handed rare starts in that win, and there was also space on the bench for Prime League boys Matthew Abraham, Eddie Chang and Prakash Manikam.
Abraham and Chang came on as substitutes, giving them the much-craved first-team action all Prime League players desire.
Bok promised that this policy will continue at Yishun.
“It will be the same,” said the 42-year-old when quizzed on his team selection for the DPMM match.
“The team did well, and they proved that they are able to do the job. And they are all eager to do the job again.
“The League Cup is a good opportunity to rest a couple of players and allow others to feature more. That is what I am doing.
“It is a chance for them to prove their quality and to rise to the occasion.”
While it was the goals of Aliff and Jonjic that secured the result, regulars Shimpei Sakurada and Shukor Zailan were singled out for praise by the coach for the assists they made that led to the goals.
They will have to be at their best once again if they hope to get a good result against tougher opposition in the form of 2009 champions DPMM.
The Bruneians’ 1-0 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday, courtesy of an early goal by Subhi Abdilah, was enough to secure their place in the last eight, but it was hardly an impressive performance.
A rally by Tanjong Pagar in the second half almost produced the equaliser and it was only by a stroke of good fortune that the Wasps hung on for the win.
As a result, both SAFFC and DPMM are no longer playing for a spot in the quarterfinals, since that is already secure.
Rather, this match will determine positions in the table, with the winners of the group setting up a date with the runners-up of Group C.
That will be either Home United or Hougang United, as they also play out a match on the same day to decide the positions in their own group.
A draw is good enough for the Warriors to go through as table winners, but Bok declared that it would not matter whom they play in the quarterfinals.
Instead, his focus will be on seeing a good performance from the players who will take to the field on Wednesday.
“A draw will put us at the top of the table, but both Home and Hougang are good sides, and they are tough teams to play against,” commented the three-time MIKASA Coach of the Year.
“We will play hard, as we always do, and work as a unit. There is a plan and we have to follow it.
“I believe that the team that’s put out will be able to get the job done. DPMM just played on Sunday so I don’t know what team they will put up, but I’ve planned according to their strongest team.”
If anyone knows how to beat the Wasps, it must be the Choa Chu Kang-based side. After all, they are the only side to have defeated the Bruneians at their Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium home, coming off with a 2-1 victory back in June.
DPMM head coach Vjeran Simunic, though, will be quick to point out that Patrick da Silva, their new Brazilian striker, was not yet among their ranks at the time, and he will be keen to make an impression this time.
Bok is likely to count on the experience of Daniel Bennett and Marin Vidosevic at the back to keep the Brazilian quiet, just as he did against Tanjong Pagar and their Haitian striker Gabriel Bayonne.
Playing at Yishun on this occasion, DPMM will be without their usual home crowd, but they will be as tough to beat as ever, and having lost on that ground once in the RHB Singapore Cup, they will want to get things right and put on a quality performance against SAFFC this time.