News • February 27, 2016
Tale of Two Defences As Stags Overcome Gusty Cheetahs
Written by: Alex Weaver
Tampines Rovers defeated Hougang United 4-1 at Jurong West Stadium on Friday evening to clinch the first three points of their Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2016 campaign.
In what was probably the best first-half of football displayed in the league so far this season, the hosts stormed to a three-goal lead barely 20 minutes into the game, before Stipe Plazibat pulled a goal back for the visitors.
Trailing 1-3 at the break, Hougang continued to defy expectations of turning up and simply defending against the title favourites, as they put up some impressive attacking displays in their bid to get back into the game in the second-half.
In the end however, it was simply a matter of the Stags backline denying Hougang’s attackers more competently than the Cheetahs did with their opponent’s star frontline.
The signs were evident from the whistle as both sets of players attacked at every opportunity.
Hougang struck first in the first minute through Jozef Kaplan, but Stags custodian Izwan Mahbud was not overly troubled with the Slovakian’s shot.
The Stags hit back in the second minute with Jordan Webb giving right-back Yusiskandar Yusop the slip, before cutting inside and unleashing a shot that went over.
The Cheetahs’ midfield lead by M. Anumanthan and Raihan Rahman, were working as hard as they did against Home United last week, but Tampines managed to find the breakthrough goal in the eighth minute through Shahdan Sulaiman, who pounced on a loose ball from 18-yards.
Tampines stung Hougang again three minutes later after Ismadi Muhktar popped up at the far post to fire home and double his side’s lead.
Hougang refused to let the shock of the three early goals affect them, and continued to press and forge attacks of their own with Plazibat, Nazrul Nazari and Kaplan combining well on the many counter-attacks during the first-half.
However, Tampines continued to search for another goal and found their third through captain Mustafic Fahrudin, who glanced home a well delivered free-kick by Jermaine Pennant from close range in the 19th minute.
Despite conceding for the third time, Hougang continued to get forward in numbers at every opportunity and their efforts finally paid off in the 26th minute when Nazrul sent Plazibat through on goal and the Croatian clinically fired past Izwan for his second goal of the season.
Just before the interval, Nazrul was once again the tormentor of the Tampines rear-guard as he dribbled past Shakir Hamzah and aimed a pin-point cross at Kaplan, who fired wide of the mark.
The tempo slowed in the second-half as Tampines looked to slow things down and play a little deeper to prevent Hougang’s counter-attacks so as to preserve their two-goal lead.
2015 S.League Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure entered the field just before the hour mark in what was a surprising quick return to action, after it was revealed two weeks ago that he had suffered a bad ankle injury.
His quality was evident in most build-up plays that Hougang developed as he looked to link play from defence to attack for his side in order to stage a comeback.
Despite his introduction and that of other substitutions that Cheetahs coach K. Balagumaran tried in order to fight their way back into the contest, Kogure couldn’t quite find that killer pass needed to provide Kaplan or Plazibat with a chance to score that much-needed second goal.
As Hougang began to control possession towards the end of the match, Tampines midfielder Izzdin Shafiq stole the ball from Delwinder Singh on the halfway line before finding Fazrul Nawaz with a great pass that split-opened the Hougang defence.
The Singapore International then ran into the box before firing an unstoppable shot past Hougang custodian Khairulhin Khalid for his first goal of the season, as well as ensuring that the hosts tasted victory for the first time this season.
Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy: “First win is always important in the league to have confidence to go on. Hougang were a good side and it could have been 3-3. The only thing is that we took our chances.”
“When you are 3-0 you are complacent and you get into bad habits. Lucky it was half-time as we could reorganize and get things right for the second-half.”
Hougang United coach K. Balagumaran: “The boys did not settle in the first half. They didn’t know what’s happening, but we had chances to score.
“For me I made some changes from the last game (Home United) and I brought Yusiskandar to right-back and Wahyudi into the side so that I decided only last two days.
“I knew Tampines played these diagonal balls, so I put Yusiskandar out wide to try and stop these balls. It took some time for the boys to adapt.”
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Jermaine Pennant (Hafiz Sujad 85’), Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb, Izzdin Shafiq, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah, Billy Mehmet
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Yusiskandar Yusof (Nur Na’iim Ishak 80’), Ali Hudzaifi, Delwinder Singh, M. Anumanthan, Jozef Kaplan (C), Stipe Plazibat, Nazrul Nazari (Nur Ridho Jafri 74’), Huzaifah Aziz (Fumiya Kogure 59’), Raihan Rahman, Wahyudi Wahid