To score 14 goals in a truncated Singapore Premier League (SPL) season where only 14 rounds of games were played is an incredible feat. Lion City Sailors striker Stipe Plazibat did exactly that this year. 

And so, it is no surprise that the Croatian hotshot comfortably won the SPL Top Scorer award this campaign, finishing three goals ahead of Albirex Niigata (S) forward Tomoyuki Doi in second. Fellow Sailor Song Ui-Young and Tampines Rovers’ Boris Kopitovic ended joint-third in the scoring charts with nine goals apiece.

While Stipe’s reputation as a prolific forward is well-known, this is the first year that he has finished the season as the league’s top scorer. And the 31-year-old attributes his superb goalscoring form this season to being deployed as an out-and-out striker, while also acknowledging that he owed much of his goals to the assists from his Sailors teammates.

“I think it was important that I played the whole year in the number 9 role,” explained Stipe, who last year was deployed either on the right wing or in the middle of the pitch at his former club Hougang United.

“I showed in the 2017 season already that when I play in the (forward) position, I can score a lot of goals, and I proved it again this year. However, I have to also give credit to my teammates. They make it easier to score by creating very good chances for me, so kudos to them as well.

“On an individual level, I thought my season was superb and I’m satisfied with it. Winning the top scorer award was very nice, because I was always there as the top two or three (scorers) in previous seasons, but this is the first time I’ve finished as the top scorer, and it feels really good.”

Stipe could have had more goals to this name this season, but for a hamstring injury that restricted him to just a five-minute cameo in the Sailors’ last five fixtures, including the crucial clashes against eventual league champions Albirex and second-placed Tampines.

The Sailors, who finished third in the league this season, will be challenging for honours on multiple fronts next year – the SPL, Singapore Cup, and AFC Cup. And a fired-up Stipe is determined to do all he can to keep himself fit so as to lead the team to glory in all three competitions.

“I couldn’t play the last few matches because of a hamstring issue, so I’ll need to work more on muscle injury prevention going into next season,” Stipe declared.

“Naturally, I am the kind of person who always wants more and to do better, so I am expecting improved performances from myself next year. Hopefully with that, I can lead the team to win trophies!”