Pennant's cross helps Tampines top table
Tampines star's winning assist sends Stags to the top
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Jordan Webb 47)
BALESTIER KHALSA 0
He has been credited for breathing life back into the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
Last night, Jermaine Pennant continued to show Tampines Rovers why signing him is a masterstroke.
In a scrappy contest marred by some dreadful finishing, the former Arsenal and Liverpool man proved the guiding light as he provided a much-needed touch of class - and the assist for Tampines' match-winner against Balestier Khalsa.
The victory at the Jurong West Stadium was enough to send the unbeaten Stags one point clear at the top of the table.
After seeing his side struggle to make the most of their dominance in the first half, Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy admitted that Pennant's class was the difference between the two sides.
"We all know that when we have the ball, he's excellent for us," Sundram replied, when asked how crucial the Englishman has been for them.
"He was holding the ball up before beating two or three players and putting in crosses, and I believe with him, and the likes of Jordan (Webb), Billy (Mehmet) and Fazrul (Nawaz), we can have good attacking moves."
They certainly had no problems in carving apart the Balestier defence but it was their finishing that threatened to ruin it all.
Fazrul, the most prolific local striker in the S.League in the past two seasons, was the biggest culprit as he suffered a rare off-day, missing a host of gilt-edged chances, while Webb and Mehmet also failed to capitalise on decent goal-scoring chances.
Pennant, who dictated proceedings for the hosts, came close to breaking the deadlock a minute before the break when his sublime free-kick was brilliantly pushed onto the bar by Zaiful Nizam.
Two minutes after the restart, he made his most vital contribution of the game when he found space down the right and floated an inch-perfect delivery to the back post, where Webb met it with a looping header into the far corner.
The Stags continued to push forward in search of a second goal to kill off the contest but instead, it was Balestier who nearly forced a draw.
Jamil Ali, playing against the team he represented for six years before moving to Balestier this season, stole in behind the Stags' defence before sending a deft lob over the onrushing Joey Sim.
But the woodwork came to the Stags' rescue, and Tampines held on to claim their fourth win in six matches.
It should have been a far more comfortable outing for them had their strikers been sharper.
Sundram was quick to leap to Fazrul's defence, saying: "Actually, it's happened to me many times before when sometimes your touch lets you down and it's just not your day.
"I understand how frustrating it must be for him. but I believe he's a good striker, and he'll bounce back stronger."
Disappointed Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic insisted the only way for his team to get out of their rut is to keep plugging away. The Tigers have not won in this season's S.League.
"Of course, we're upset to lose and no matter how well we defend or play, we seem to be missing that final killer pass," said the German-born Croat.
"Still, we will continue to work hard and train hard, and hopefully our luck will turn around soon."
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Joey Sim, Ismadi Mukhtar, Shakir Hamzah, Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Jermaine Pennant (Mustafic Fahrudin 82), Yasir Hanapi, Shahdan Sulaiman, Jordan Webb (Izzdin Shafiq 90), Billy Mehmet, Fazrul Nawaz (Sufian Anuar 62).
- BALESTIER KHALSA: Zaiful Nizam, Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Emir Lotinac, Hanafi Salleh, Sadin Smajovic, Gary Loo (Danial Farhan Tan 60), Fazli Ayob, Zulkiffli Hassim (Hazzuwan Halim 67), Miroslav Kristic, Syafiq Zainal (Jamil Ali 60).
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Jermaine Pennant (Tampines Rovers)