Singapore Premier League • October 19, 2014

Stags Keep Pace With Top Teams


Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Tampines Rovers kept themselves in the running for the the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League title after a 3-1 win over Balestier Khalsa at Clementi Stadium on Saturday evening.

Strikes from Jacob Butler, Shahdan Sulaiman and Miljan Mrdakovic rendered Emir Lotinac’s 83rd-minute goal inconsequential as the Stags moved joint-second with Brunei DPMM, albeit having played a game more.

Chances were at a premium in the first-half though as both teams failed to really threaten in the final third with the defences standing firm.

The first opportunity fell to Tampines in the third minute when Mrdakovic rose to meet a cross from the right but could only send a tame header straight at Zaiful Nizam.

It was then Balestier’s turn to have a pop on goal in the 14th minute. Ruhaizad Ismail picked out Goran Ljubojevic on the edge of the six-yard box and the latter clipped a shot which bounced harmlessly wide.

The remainder of the half saw the two teams cancelling each other out in the middle of the park although it was Balestier who shaded it.

However, the breakthrough would finally come in the 44th minute from a set-piece situation.

Shaiful Esah’s corner delivery was flicked on by Noh Alam Shah and the loose ball fell kindly to the feet of a lurking Butler who needed no second invitation to tap home from close range and put the Stags in front.

After the break, Shahdan saw his effort from distance sail just over the bar before Alam Shah narrowly failed to connect with Ang Zhi Wei’s low cross in the 54th minute.

Tampines custodian Justin Pasfield was then called into action just after the hour mark, when he flew across to keep out Kim Minho’s header which seemed destined for goal as the visitors sought to find a way back.

The Tigers however found themselves further behind in the 73rd minute as Shahdan got his name on the scoresheet, calmly volleying a half-cleared cross past a hapless Zaiful and into the bottom corner.

It could have been game set and match for Tampines eight minutes from time after Jozef Kaplan latched onto a through pass and slid the ball past Zaiful, but Paul Cunningham raced back to hack the ball off the line.

Moments later at the other end, Lotinac gave the Tigers a glimmer of hope, lashing an unstoppable shot past Pasfield from outside the area to make it 2-1.

But all hopes of a comeback were extinguished as Mrdakovic coolly finished beyond Zaiful with the last kick of the game to seal the win for Tampines and avenge for their RHB Singapore Cup semi-final defeat to the same opponents.

With the victory, Rafi Ali’s side are now on 46 points in the league, one behind leaders Warriors FC whom they face on Thursday.