MORE THAN JUST 3 POINTS
GREAT EASTERN CHARITY SHIELD
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Miljan Mrdakovic 47)
HOME UNITED 0
He did not join his team and salute the fans after the game, instead, Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng stuck his hands in his pockets and with head bowed, walked from the bench and disappeared into the tunnel.
His team were fitter, faster and more fluid in possession at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
But they ended the first match of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season as they did in last year's campaign - behind Tampines Rovers.
This year's Charity Shield - the traditional curtain raiser to the S.League season - featured a bigger incentive for the two protagonists with league points at stake, and Tampines got off to a great start with a 1-0 win.
Touted as favourites last night and billed as the team to beat this year, Home were left deflated at the end of the match and only time will tell if the Stags have dealt them a psychological blow.
"Why do you think we are favourites? I don't agree that we have the best quality players (in the league), we should run more," snapped Lee, after the game.
"It's dangerous to say that we have the best squad."
Dominating possession in the first half, Home brought fans to the edge of their seats with brilliant passages of one-touch football.
But a resolute Tampines came out sharper after the break and took the lead through Miljan Mrdakovic in the 47th minute.
The 32-year-old lived up to his billing as a marquee signing when he expertly killed a cross with a sublime touch, then swivelled to send the ball past Shahril Jantan in the Home goal.
With skipper Mustafic Fahrudin putting in a gargantuan performance in the heart of the Tampines defence, the Stags held firm, their cause aided by Home forward Qiu Li receiving a straight red card in the 82nd minute for a moment of madness.
The 33-year-old rode a hard challenge from Anaz Hadee right in front of the Tampines bench, then petulantly kicked out at his aggressor.
Qiu left Home after the 2012 season, after apparently falling out with Lee, and his latest indiscretion in his return to the club after a successful 2013 at Balestier Khalsa does not augur well.
Referring to the incident, the South Korean coach said simply: "He deserved the red card."
Emerging from the dressing room positively beaming, Mustafic declared that the win was not just for the Charity Shield or the points.
"This means a lot - really. Home are one of the main contenders for the title and there was a lot of talk about them beating us, but you can see that we are in the driver's seat," he said.
"We can only get better and if anyone wants the title, they have to come and take it from us."
It may be just one game into the new season, but the difference between the two teams at the end could not have been more stark.
Said Tampines coach Salim Moin: "It was very important to win the first game of the season, especially against a very good team like Home."
l TAMPINES ROVERS: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Kunihiro Yamashita, Mustafic Fahrudin, Norihiro Kawakami, Imran Sahib, Shahdan Sulaiman, Luis Closa, Shaiful Esah (Anaz Hadee 67), Roberto Martinez, Aleksandar Duric (Jamil Ali 81), Miljan Mrdakovic (Noh Alam Shah 76)
l HOME UNITED: Shahril Jantan, Ismail Yunos, Song Inyoung (Syahiran Miswan 72), Sirina Camara, Juma'at Jantan, Kwon Dakyung, Izzdin Shafiq (Fazli Ayob 88), Yasir Hanapi, Lee Kwan Woo, Qiu Li, Bruno Castanheira (Ahmad Fahmie 69)
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH Mustafic Fahrudin
GOOD TURNOUT BUT FANS WANT GOALS
The fans turned out last night to see two giants of the local game battle it out for the Great Eastern Charity Shield.
The clash between Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions Tampines Rovers and RHB Singapore Cup winners Home United had some great action, with good passing and crunching tackles, and even a sending-off, but the lack of goals left the fans wanting more.
Tampines' 1-0 win in front of a Jalan Besar crowd of 3,010 was fortuitous, and Brendon Tan, a fan of the Stags, said: "It was a fantastic second half. I thought we were dominated in the first but, after the break, we took control."
"I wanted to see more shots and goals though, but a win is still a win. Hopefully, our foreign signings can start scoring in the next few games. I'm excited to see more of them throughout the season," the 18-year-old student added.
Home United fan Alex Gan was frustrated, after his side fluffed a number of chances.
Said the 49-year-old teacher: "We dominated the first half, but we barely had any shots on target after the break. We did threaten late but, by then, we were a man down and it was too late."
A number of fans raised a din with their clappers, which was distributed in one of the initiatives by the S.League to enhance the atmosphere on matchdays.
S.League CEO Lim Chin was very happy with the turnout.
"It was a good start to the season, I couldn't have asked for more," he said.
"It's a long season, but I hope with all our initiatives, like the mascots, fantasy football league, apps, food deals and clappers, the turnout will be just as good and more fans will support our S.League."
Aisya Karim, 25, believes that with more marquee signings in this year's competition, goals will come.
"With the marquee players, I see more goals scored this season. As a fan, that will be great," said the undergraduate.
"The current initiatives are great, like the clappers, so we can do more than just sing and shout.
"We can be noisy with the clappers and make the atmosphere more fun."