On Monday evening, Hougang United visits Choa Chu Kang Stadium to face the Warriors and for the first time this season, the defending champions will take to the field without Alex Weaver. In a surprising development announced on Saturday night, the English head coach and the club had parted ways by mutual consent – less than a year after they had won the S.League title.
Weaver’s replacement, Karim Bencherifa, is no stranger to the competition. He had previously managed Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington between 2004 and 2006. He then moved to India, where he finished runner-ups in the I-League on goal difference with Churchill Brothers in 2008 before leading Salgaocar to a I-League and Federation Cup double in 2011. His previous club was with Pune F.C. and in recent months, he had been linked by the media to the head coach position for the Young Lions and the Malaysian national team.
With just five league games left to the season, Bencherifa was undoubtedly appointed more with an eye towards the 2016 season. He will nonetheless attempt to arrest Warriors’ ongoing slump. They have won just twice in their last 13 games and despite being in a mid-table position, the team has the worst defence in the league, conceding 26 goals in their last 13 games for an average – obviously – of two conceded goals per game. Only twice in that stretch have they restricted their opponents to just one goal. Their worst result? The 4:1 loss to Hougang United in early August when Marin Vidosevic was sent off in the opening few minutes, condemning his side to play most of the game with a one man disadvantage.
Before Bencherifa officially take over the reins though, the Warriors team facing Hougang United on Monday evening will be under the guidance of caretaker coach Razif Onn. The defending champions’ Club General Coordinator, Razif has also been the head coach of their U18 squad, currently positioned second in the Centre of Excellence (COE) competition.
Hougang United too has been in a slump of their own, albeit a shorter one relative to their opponents. After a decent run of three wins in six games across July and August, they have now gone through five games without a win and will look at turning that around when they face a Warriors side in the midst of a transition. The last time they played Warriors in that 4:1 mauling, Delwinder Singh, Carlos Delgado and Nurhilmi Jasni each picked up an assist while all three of their top scorers – Kunihiro Yamashita, Vuk Sotirovic and Diego Gama – found the net, including a brace for Sotirovic. Notably, this was the last match that Diego last scored in and after enduring six games without a goal, Warriors could well be ideal opponents for the Brazilian to recapture his finishing touch.
Warriors F.C. vs Hougang United F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
30th October 2015, Monday
7:30 pm, Choa Chu Kang Stadium