Singapore Premier League • May 9, 2014
Mighty Stags Fight Back To Hold Warriors
Written by: Khalis Rifhan
An impressive Tampines Rovers showed why they were the reigning Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League champions on Thursday evening after holding Warriors FC to a 3-3 thriller at Clementi Stadium.
Despite going behind twice, first to a two-goal deficit and one right before the end of regulation time, the Stags never gave up and managed to make a comeback each time.
A goal each from Nicholaz Velez and Miroslav Pejic had gave Warriors what seemed like an unassailable lead in the first half.
But Tampines hauled themselves back into the game as Aleksandar Duric and Miljan Mrdakovic scored within a two-minute time frame to shock the visitors.
But there was to be some late drama left in store.
Central defender Marin Vidosevic thought he had struck the winning goal right at the death, as he whirled away to celebrate the late goal.
However, with virtually the last attack of the game, the Stags surged forward in numbers and again pulled back to draw level as Vidosevic turned from hero-to-zero after putting the ball through his own goal.
Tampines deserved much credit for their resilience, especially after coming into the game in less-than ideal conditions.
The reigning champions were suffering from a host of unavailable players, as coach Rafi Ali had to make do without key defender Shariff Samat, Shaiful Esah and ex-international Noh Alam Shah who were all out through injury.
On the other hand, the Warriors only reported a long-term injury to Jeremy Chiang, with Irwan Shah who has been playing down the left flank reverted to his traditional position at right-back.
The absence of several prominent players in the squad was keenly felt by the Stags, as they were clearly outplayed for most of the first half which saw the Warriors go two goals up.
Pejic wasted no time from the kick-off as he went on a solo run into the opponents’ penalty box but his shot was palmed away by Tampines goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at.
Midway through the first half, Marin Vidosevic had a go from 30 yards but his thunderous attempt from the set-piece flew agonisingly inches over the bar in the 17th minute.
However, the deadlock was broken three minutes later.
Maintaining his superb form in recent games, Velez broke free from his markers in the penalty box and smashed home from a tight angle for his eighth goal of the season.
The Stags then met with further misery almost instantly as referee Sukhbir Singh pointed to the penalty spot after Hyrulnizam had brought Pejic down in the area.
Pejic made no mistake from the ensuing spot-kick as he sent Hyrulnizam the wrong way for Warriors’ second goal of the match in the 23rd minute.
It could have been a three-goal lead for Weaver’s charges minutes before the interval but Pejic could only guide Velez’s squared ball into the woodwork.
Going for broke, Rafi brought on evergreen striker Aleksandar Duric towards the end of the first half for Roberto Martinez.
The 44-year-old’s presence breathed life to the Stags’ attack as they staged a comeback in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
Adapting a swift counter attacking play through the right wing, Tampines pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute as Duric thumped a header to the bottom corner.
Buoyed by that first goal, the Clementi-based club caught Warriors out yet again with a flick of a switch.
Mrdakovic latched onto a low cross in the danger area and from close range the striker sweeped the ball into the net for the equalising goal.
With one minute of regulation time remaining, Warriors continued their assault on the opponents and thought they had done enough when Vidosevic prodded in the third goal.
However, Vidosevic then turned from hero to villain minutes later as he failed to clear Abraham’s shot from the byline, and instead deflected the ball past his own goalkeeper.