With four early exits in the last five years since winning it in 2012, four-time champions Warriors FC will be looking to put their under-achieving ways in the RHB Singapore Cup behind them as they face Brunei DPMM in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.
Home United may be the most successful team in Singapore Cup history with six triumphs, but Warriors follow just behind with four crowns to their name.
Their last success came in 2012 when late goals from Shimpei Sakurada and Erwan Gunawan saw them overturn a first-half deficit to edge Tampines Rovers 2-1 – giving then-outgoing coach Richard Bok the perfect farewell gift.
However the uniformed outfit have fared poorly in the competition since then – exiting in the preliminary rounds four times out of the last five years.
Even in 2015 when they received a bye into the quarterfinals, they were defeated 4-1 by Home over two legs.
The peculiar streak has left even their own player Emmeric Ong bemused as he is determined to turn the tide for his side this year.
“There isn’t any particular reason to that and I feel we should change this time round,” said the 27-year-old, who is now Warriors’ longest-serving player – having joined in 2015.
“Warriors as a club should always be up there challenging for every trophy. The Singapore Cup has always been a prestigious tournament and we should take every chance we have for silverware.”
In their way is a DPMM side that has never won the Singapore Cup despite winning three League Cups since first joining the S.League (now Singapore Premier League) in 2009.
The best achievements in the tournament remain to be the third-placed finishes in 2014 and 2015.
Club captain Shahrazen Said believes the club is well-placed to end their drought after assembling a squad which he views as ‘better’ than their 2015 S.League winning squad.
“We have many good young players in the team now… That means we can make bigger and better impact not just for this year, but also for the coming seasons,” said the 32-year-old, who has been on the club’s books since 2005.
“Definitely we’re trying our best for this Cup. Now we just focus on beating Warriors. If we can win, then we will concentrate on the next step – which is the semi-finals.”
Ong shares similar sentiments as his DPMM counterpart as he looks to win his first piece of silverware with the Warriors.
“The DPMM side have a really good target men in (former Shakhtar Donetsk forward) Volodymyr Priyomov… And they are flanked by two very good locals in Adi Said and Azwan Ali,” he analysed.
“We really need to keep all their attackers quiet to give ourselves a really good chance of beating them.”
Interestingly this is first-ever meeting between both sides in the Singapore Cup, despite having faced each other seven times in the League Cup.
TEAM NEWS: DPMM should have a largely full-strength squad to call upon, with Priyomov returning from suspension to boost their attacking options.
Meanwhile the Warriors will miss Poh Yi Feng, who is out for the season due to a knee injury while Sahil Suhaimi is possibly a doubt after coming off injured in Sunday’s 2-2 league draw against Balestier Khalsa FC.
The good news for them is that Hafiz Sulaiman is back from a one-game ban to boost their defence.
Brunei DPMM FC: LLDDW
Warriors FC: WWWWD
30/06/18 DPMM 2-1 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
02/05/18 Warriors 2-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
21/10/17 DPMM 3-2 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
18/07/17 DPMM 1-5 Warriors – League Cup
02/07/17 Warriors 1-0 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Abdul Azizi Rahman (Brunei DPMM)
With Priyomov returning from suspension, it is not guaranteed that Azizi will get another start. However the 31-year-old should surely play a part at some stage of this game after a stunning hat-trick show in last Saturday’s 3-1 league victory over Hougang United FC. He is no stranger to scoring goals as he was last season’s Brunei Super League top scorer with 28in 20 outings.
Jonathan Behe (Warriors FC)
Not the first time that he is featuring in this column and certainly not going to be the last time. Accounting for almost 63% (17 out of 27) of Warriors’ goals this season, the 29-year-old French forward is a true menace in the opponents’ box with the ability to produce a variety of finishes.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
DPMM forward Shahrazen Said: “We just need to improve much more on keeping the ball and finishing… I’m so glad that Azizi can prove to us on his abilities and the other teams that he can be a dangerous attacker at this level.
“Warriors are in good form (unbeaten in last five games), but we just have to concentrate on our own style of play and not think about our opponents.”
Warriors defender Emmeric Ong: “We really have a good squad this year with many quality players. Just look at our bench in the past two game… Those players can easily be starters at other clubs. With the Cup draw favouring us, we have to go out there, show what we can do and earn our place in the final.
“It’s true John (Behe) has been on fire, but I feel that it isn’t just a one-man show if you’ve watched our games. Our team works very hard to keep the opponents out and provide him with the balls that are needed to score. If the other teams put too much attention onto him, that’ll free up space for the rest of us to cause damage.”