News • October 23, 2016
Stags Dig Deep To Defeat Gusty Tigers
Written by: Nevin Gabriel Khoo
Tampines Rovers will finish as runners-up in the 2016 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League after a hard-fought 2-0 win over Balestier Khalsa at Jurong West Stadium on Saturday night.
The Stags now sit in second place in the league table with 46 points, five more than third-placed Brunei DPMM, as they head into their final game of the season next week against newly-crowned S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S).
It was the visitors who started the first-half strongly, registering their first attempt on goal eight minutes into the game. Fadhil Noh slipped an excellent ball to Hazzuwan Halim, but the latter failed to find the back of the net.
The early scare shook Tampines into action as Izzdin Shafiq tried to break the deadlock in the 10th minute with a 30-yard strike, but his attempt failed to trouble Tigers custodian Zaiful Nizam.
Billy Mehmet was next to try his luck three minutes later as his volley from an Ismadi Mukhtar’s cross looked destined for the back of the net, only for Zaiful to parry it onto the woodwork.
Marko Kraljevic’s charges limited the Stags to taking potshots from distance as they executed their game-plan of sitting back, soaking up the pressure and counter-attacking to perfection.
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas then issued a tactical change as half-time loomed, switching Jermaine Pennant, who began the game in the centre of midfield, to the right-flank and his decision paid off on 39 minutes.
A cross from Pennant into the box was flicked on by Jordan Webb into the path of Shakir Hamzah, who timed his run perfectly and volleyed home from an acute angle to break the deadlock for the hosts.
The Tigers came out after the interval determined to salvage a point from the match, and fashioned a couple of decent chances to score.
A penetrating run into the box by Niko Tokic on 58 minutes drew both Stags custodian Izwan Mahbud and Juri Taha towards him, creating space for Fadhil Noh in the centre of the 18-yard box. However, Fadhil sent his effort wide of the mark.
As the visitors pressed forward in search of an equaliser in stoppage time, the Stags found more space in the final third and duly punished the Tigers.
A through ball from Pennant sent Mehmet on goal and the striker sealed the win for Tampines by rounding Zaiful with his first touch and slotting the ball into an empty net.
Tampines Rovers coach Akbar Nawas: “What matters most is to secure the second position that’s what we wanted to achieve today.
“Even if it was 1-0 we would have taken it. But obviously we saw that Balestier was sitting a bit deeper throughout the game so for us to penetrate and score the second goal was pleasing.”
“For sure we have to rest players (in the last league game) because it is inconsequential. It is just a game we have to play to tune up for the RHB Singapore Cup final.”
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic: “We defended well in the first-half but towards the end of the half we conceded and we should have done better.
“Even in the second-half we defended very well. We had one good chance and we should have scored the goal and perhaps it would have been a different story. Tampines is a good team, we must defend and counter-attack. Defensively I am happy but we should have scored that chance.”
“We stopped them from creating clear chances but this is an instance when the team does not play well but still win the game. This is a quality of a good team.”
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK,C), Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Yasir Hanapi, Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb (Irwan Shah 46’), Fabian Kwok (Shahdan Sulaiman 59’), Izzdin Shafiq, Shakir Hamzah, Billy Mehmet
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK,C), Fadli Kamis, Emir Lotinac, Shah Hirul, Niko Tokic (Zulkhair Mustaffa 79’), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fadhil Noh (Syahfuddin Eska 79’), Syafiq Zainal, Ahmad Syahir, Tan Daniel Farhan (Miroslav Kristic 65’), Hazzuwan Halim