Much has been made about their big-money foreign signings and the likes of Lestienne and Lopes have made a difference.
But senior local players like Quak and the younger ones like 23-year-old Haiqal are also stepping up, and when they gel so well on matchdays, they can be near unplayable.
As they open up a sizeable lead even before the halfway mark of a 28-game season, there is a risk of the title race being a procession, but the Sailors won't care as long as they get the job done.
SINGAPORE - Since he joined the Lion City Sailors two years ago, winger Gabriel Quak has never endured a four-match Singapore Premier League (SPL) goal drought. And he wasn't about to let it happen just yet.
The SPL's top local scorer in 2020 and 2021 had already scored a point-salvaging penalty against Albirex Niigata and the match-winner against Young Lions this season, and he continued his knack of producing vital goals on Saturday (May 21) in front of a boisterous and packed stand at Our Tampines Hub.
With his team deadlocked against title-contenders Tampines Rovers, Quak took matters into his own hands in the 39th minute when the 31-year-old collected Faris Ramli's knock-on, skipped past Irwan Shah and fired a deflected shot past Syazwan Buhari for the opener in front of 1,495 fans.
That gave the visitors the spark they needed and romped to a 4-0 win over the Stags which opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the table with 25 points from 10 games. Tampines remain fourth with 15 points from nine games.
Surprisingly, Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon took the lively Quak off in the 54th minute, but was vindicated in just a minute as substitute Haiqal Pashia sprinted down the right to deliver a cross for the marauding Maxime Lestienne to prod past Syazwan.
Lestienne then turned provider in the 66th minute when his left-wing cross was headed in with aplomb by Song Ui-young.
Five minutes later, Haiqal switched to the left to grab his first goal of the season after picking up Diego Lopes' through ball to slot past Syazwan in a lightning counter-attack.
Sailors coach Kim said: "Gabriel was a player we needed to keep the ball against a possession-based team, and his fitness and gelling with the team are getting better. And I also have Haiqal, whose speed of development scares me.
"He is good in one-on-ones and with his speed running down the line. Overall, we are playing better football after the AFC Champions League, and we are playing exactly what we prepared in training, so I'm very proud as a coach. We are getting stronger game by game."
The hosts were not without their chances, although these were reduced to efforts from range. Boris Kopitovic's six-match scoring run came to an end as he saw his 53rd-minute free kick strike the post.
But it will be their leaky defence - which has conceded more than 2.5 goals per game - that will concern Tampines coach Gavin Lee as they continue to search for their first clean sheet of the season.