Singapore Premier League • February 25, 2014
Nine-Men Jaguars Hold on for Win over Harimau Muda
Written by: Khalis Rifhan
Nine-men Tanjong Pagar United survived a late onslaught by Harimau Muda as they clawed back from a goal down to secure a 2-1 win at Pasir Gudang Stadium, Johor, on Monday night.
It was their first Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League win over the Malaysian developmental squad in five matches. The Jaguars’ two previous encounters in the 2013 season saw Patrick Vallee’s side lose 3-0 in Johor and held to a 1-1 draw at Queenstown Stadium.
The Jaguars started without several of their key players as both Hanafi Salleh and marquee signing Monsef Zerka were suspended for the match, while Ahmad Latiff was still out for another month as he recovers from a double knee operation in the pre-season.
Although the Jaguars went home with the three points, things did not go as planned for them in the early stages of the match as Razip Ismail’s side grabbed the opening goal in the 23rd minute.
Akhir Bahari got onto the end of Afiq Fazail’s pass at the edge of the box, and dribbled past his markers before unleashing a low driven shot to the bottom corner.
Despite being stunned by the goal, Vallee’s squad regained control of the match and were eager to find the equaliser with Masrezwan Masturi and Kamel Ramdani taking pot-shots from distance while new signing Sebastien Etiemble asserted his authority in midfield and provided the ammunition to the front two.
The visitors’ effort finally paid off on the half-hour mark when Masrezwan spotted Harimau goalkeeper Ramdhan Hamid way off his goal-line, and the latter promptly sent a looping ball over the custodian and into the back of the net.
Seven minutes later, the Jaguars bench were up in arms as referee Mohd Irwan waved off a penalty appeal after Kamel Ramdani was bundled over in the penalty box by Abdullah Suleiman.
Although most of Harimau’s player were making their professional debuts, they were undaunted by their more experienced opponents. Irfan Zakaria held the fort well in central midfield while Shahrul Igwan and Faris Shah were a menace down the flanks.
It could have been a different outcome had Faris Shah been clinical in front of goal, but nerves got the better of the 19-year-old as he ballooned the ball from close range three minutes after the interval.
It was a costly miss as Tanjong Pagar snatched the winning goal midway through the second half. Ramdani was the architect as he zipped past his marker and sent the ball into the six-yard area, and Masrezwan headed it down but an unfortunate Azrul Nizam could only turn the ball into his own net while attempting to clear it.
Vallee will be missing Ruzaini Zainal and Nor Azli Yusoff for their next match against Hougang United on 27 February as the duo were sent off in the latter stages of the match.
Ruzaini was shown a straight red by referee Mohd Irwan for a reckless challenge on Irfan in the 72nd minute while Azli was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence.
Defending a goal lead with nine men was never going to be easy and the Jaguars had goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson to thank for as he kept the team in the lead by pulling off several top-notch saves, including denying Naim Zakari’s audacious lob with a fingertip save in the dying minutes of the match.
For Harimau Muda, they will make a trip to Jurong East Stadium to face Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s Albirex Niigata (S) on the same day.