Singapore Premier League • November 22, 2015

Akbar: We Shot Ourselves In The Foot


Written by: Shawn Lim

Tampines Rovers assistant coach Akbar Nawas bemoaned his side’s self-destruction after their faint title hopes were extinguished in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Harimau Muda on Saturday night at Jurong West Stadium

The Stags had taken the title race down to the last day of the season after victories over Home United and Albirex Niigata (S), but still needed to defeat the Young Tigers by two goals and hope that results in Bandar Seri Begawan go in their favour in order to lift the trophy.

However, in true spirit of Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – the Young Tigers scored an early goal through Ariff Farhan in the seventh minute before the Stags were reduced to 10 men after Isa Halim was sent off for violent conduct in the 31st minute.

Rodrigo Tosi restored parity for the hosts with a well-taken spot-kick early in the second period, but Tampines’ miserable night was compounded even further when substitute Noh Alam Shah was also sent off for a dangerous tackle in the 88th minute.

Further goals failed to materialise for the Stags and they were greeted with the news at the final whistle that Brunei DPMM had won the title after a comfortable 4-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa.

Akbar was critical of the way his charges conceded the early goal and felt that it made an already impossible task, even harder.

“I don’t think the pressure got to the players because they are very experienced, but you have to credit Harimau Muda for starting the game well,” said the coach.

“They gave us a lot of trouble and we conceded a very soft goal in terms of the corner kick. So that made our task harder, knowing that we needed to win by two clear goals.

“By conceding one goal, we made life difficult for ourselves and we were always trying to chase the game after that.”

The former Singapore National Under-18 head coach however, praised his side for putting up a better performance in the second half even though they were at a numerical disadvantage.

“We were a bit too impatient in the first-half, trying to press almost every single ball..probably did not keep our shape or did not cover well,” said Akbar.

“But in the second half, we turned up.. even with 10 men. You have to credit the players for actually working their socks off.

“We didn’t want to know the result on the other side. We only knew that we had to score two goals.

“We pressed, we attack and you could see even towards the closing stages of the game, we took out a left-back..a defender and we put in a striker, hoping to get that goal to at least get three points.”

Even though the Stags failed at the final hurdle, Akbar feels that his charges can be proud of themselves for putting up a tough fight in the title race.

“Having come back from mid-season after being written off and to finish in second..yes, we are disappointed, but the players deserve some pat on the back for making it a last-ditch effort to bring the title race to the final day of the season,” said Akbar.

“That is certainly an achievement because it is a test of the players’ characters and all of the people around the club, including the coaching staff because we could have easily given up when we were in fifth place in mid-season.

“Results went our way as well and played a part in allowing us to chase the title till the last day.”

Meanwhile, Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail praised his charges for giving their full effort even though it was their last game of the season.

“I am satisfied with a draw even though my aim was to come here and beat the opponent,” said the 51-year-old.

“I know it is very difficult because they needed a win. The way we played in the first half, I think we played very good football and controlled the game.

“I told them that even though this is our last game of the season and we are not under pressure to win, we should try to get three points or at least go for a draw.

“So I am happy with they way they played and the attitude of the players from the beginning..we really wanted to win.”