The Sailors are up and running in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), having defeated Geylang International 4-0 on Sunday evening for their first ever win. 

New signing Stipe Plazibat opened the scoring early on, before Song Ui-Young netted from the spot on the stroke of half time to double the advantage. 

With Geylang playing the entire second half with a man less following goalkeeper Zainol Gulam’s dismissal for the foul leading to the penalty, the Sailors would go on to score a further two late into the game, with Stipe netting his second and substitute Shahril Ishak rounding off the victory near the end of the game. 

Here, we look back on four talking points from an excellent evening for the Sailors… 

  • Stipe makes an instant impact… at both ends

All eyes were on Stipe making his much-anticipated debut for the Sailors and he duly delivered. Our Croatian hotshot converted two out of his three shot attempts, which showcased his ruthlessness in front of goal. 

His predatory instincts were perfectly encapsulated in his maiden Sailors strike after just eight minutes, as he got ahead of marker Yuki Ichikawa to divert home a Tajeli Salamat knock-on from Shahdan Sulaiman’s outswinging corner. The second goal was much more straightforward, as he swept home from unmissable range after being teed up by substitute Gabriel Quak. He could have ended the night with a hat-trick, but a snapshot earlier in the first half was turned round the post by Zainol. 

The goals aside, his all-round play upfront was promising, with Stipe constantly providing an outlet to link up with his team-mates. To cap it off, he also made significant contributions at the other end by often tracking back to help out the team in defending set-piece situations. All in all, it was a superb debut performance which will surely leave Sailors fans salivating for more. The danger for the rest of the league is that Stipe is just getting started.

  • Song, now the wily old head

A lot of attention before the season started was focused on how the Sailors’ new recruits like Hassan Sunny, Shahdan Sulaiman and Gabriel Quak would impact the team, so much so that those who were already plying their trade at Bishan Stadium were perhaps overlooked. One such player is South Korean midfielder Song Ui-Young, who is now into his ninth season in Singapore (having spent 2012 to 2019 with Home United, our previous entity). 

While he has been deployed in a few positions across midfield over the years, Song currently plays as a no. 8 in a three-man Sailors midfield – a role which allows him to utilise his incredible stamina to roam from box to box. The Incheon native showed why he is such a valuable member of the Sailors by putting up an impressive display against Geylang. 

His clever movement and top-notch passing ability helped to link the lines between defence and attack seamlessly – which meant we often managed to get balls in behind the Geylang backline. A video that has been making its rounds on social media summed up Song’s key attribute in a nutshell – having evaded his marker with a strong run, he proceeded to produce a delicious 60-yard ball in between two Geylang defenders that teed up Hafiz Nor for a one-on-one which he did not manage to finish off.

Also, his penalty? Coolness personified.

Despite turning just 27 in November, Song is already regarded as the wise old head in the Sailors squad, as he leads by example from the middle of the pitch.

  • Young talents rise to the fore

The presence of experienced figures like Stipe and Song seems to be rubbing off on the younger players in the team, with Arshad Shamim and Saifullah Akbar showing their potential with good shifts on Sunday night. 

Winger Arshad constantly provided an outlet down the right flank with excellent, probing runs – with one of those resulting in the 20-year-old being brought down by a crude challenge from Zainol that drew a straight red for the latter. Meanwhile, 21-year-old attacking midfielder Saifullah did not look out of place on his Sailors debut, with his tidiness in possession and incisive passes. 

Nurturing young talents and seeing them progress to bigger and better things is a key facet of the Sailors’ philosophy, so it is important for Arshad and Saifullah to build on their encouraging performances against Geylang. Likewise, the youngsters’ good performances will also drive the senior players to take their game to a higher level – as evident in the impact that Gabriel and Shahril both made when they came off the bench. 

  • A handy first shutout to build on

It is an obvious fact in football that clean sheets breed confidence, thus the Sailors should be happy with their night’s work. Geylang did have some good moments in the first half, but goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was generally untroubled throughout, although he still had to make an excellent late save to deny Khairul Nizam’s downward header in the second half. 

Tajeli, in just his second start for the Sailors, put up an accomplished performance at the heart of defence alongside the experienced Abdil Qaiyyim. Tajeli’s impeccable positioning and reading of the game allowed him to hack off the line from Darren Teh’s goal-bound header, and he was also influential in the Sailors’ opening goal with an excellent leap in the air to knock Shahdan’s corner into the path for Stipe to do the rest. 

Meanwhile, full-backs Aqhari Abdullah and Naqiuddin Eunos gradually grew into the game and got forward well, with the latter teeing up Shahril for the late goal. 

All in all, the win and the performance that accompanied it is a huge confidence booster for the Sailors, as we gear up for the big clash against the free-scoring Albirex Niigata (S) next week.