'85 per cent' Pennant shows pedigree
Tampines winger fails to score but happy to be involved in all four goals
TAMPINES ROVERS 4
(Billy Mehmet 2, Hafiz Abu Sujad 33, Afiq Yunos 52, Topu Barman 53- og)
SHEIKH JAMAL DHANMONDI 0
A Jermaine Pennant at "85 per cent" was still good enough to inspire Tampines Rovers to record their joint-biggest win in the AFC Cup and go top of their group.
The 33-year-old marquee signing was carrying some ringrust but was still involved in all four goals, as the Stags opened their Group E campaign with a 4-0 win over Bangladesh outfit Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi at Jalan Besar last night in front of 2,378 fans.
"It was good to get my first start for Tampines out of the way, and to provide two assists and be involved in all four goals," said Pennant, who alternated between the right-wing position and the more central No. 10 role.
The closest he came to scoring his first Tampines goal was when he spun a 12th-minute free-kick just wide.
He added: "Every player wants to score but, if I can't, then the next best thing is to help the team win by assisting.
"Right now, I'm at about 85 per cent. What's lacking is match fitness and I can still get sharper which will mean my passes and through-balls will be more crisp.
"But it wasn't all about me. It was a professional performance in which we tried to score as many as we can.
"The local players, such as our right wingback Fabian (Kwok) who ran himself to the ground, also played a big part."
The former Arsenal and Liverpool star showed glimpses of his attacking quality and took just 66 seconds to make his first contribution, drifting to the right to cross for striker Billy Mehmet to tap in the opening goal.
Pennant then fed Mehmet, whose cross was turned in by Hafiz Abu Sujad's stooping header in the 33rd minute.
The visitors, led by their skilful Haitian forward Wedson Anselme, threatened Izwan Mahbud's goal on several occasions but could not find a way past the goalkeeper.
Up stepped Pennant to carve two more goals in the second half, when Kwon Jun's header off his corner was blocked only for Afiq Yunos to thump in the 52nd minute, before Topu Barman turned Pennant's cross into his own net just a minute later.
Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy was pleased to record his first AFC Cup win, and only the Stags' third in their last 15 games in the competition, but warned against complacency.
"It's a good start and we also got a clean sheet, but we can do better. We must keep the ball better and be more clinical," said the 50-year-old.
"Jermaine was great and you can see from his defence-splitting passes just why he played for Arsenal and Liverpool. We will definitely see more of him in the future."
Dhanmondi coach Shafiqul Islam Manik was a lot less impressed with his defence than he was with Pennant.
The 49-year-old said: "My defenders were not up to the mark. Pennant was not so much the difference compared to my defence.
"It was not like they were all beautiful goals - three of them came from our silly mistakes."
In the other Group E match, Filipino side Ceres held Malaysian giants Selangor to a 2-2 draw in Bacolod. The Stags will take on Selangor in their next AFC Cup match on March 8 in Shah Alam.
Jermaine was great and you can see from his defence-splitting passes just why he played for Arsenal and Liverpool. We will definitely see more of him in the future.
— Stags coach V Sundramoorthy, on his marquee signing Jermaine Pennant
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Kwon Jun, Noh Rahman, Afiq Yunos, Fabian Kwok, Yasir Hanapi, Shahdan Sulaiman (Izzdin Shafiq 62), Christopher van Huizen (Jordan Webb 32), Hafiz Abu Sujad, Jermaine Pennant (Fazrul Nawaz 73), Billy Mehmet
- SHEIKH JAMAL DHANMONDI: Mazharul Islam, Linkon, Topu Barman (Enamul Hoque 67), Yeasin Khan, Munna Yeasin Ahmed, Jamal Bhuyan, Nguyen Hang Tcheuko Minh (Kasto Kumar Bosh 37), Sohel Rana, Landing Darboe, Wedson Anselme, Emeka Onouha
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Jermaine Pennant (Tampines)