Stags sweat for 2-1 victory over Young Lions
Young Lions show signs of improvement as they make the Stags sweat
GARENA YOUNG LIONS 1
(Fareez Farhan 62-pen)
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Shakir Hamzah 45+1; Chris van Huizen 50)
His fists clenched, an annoyed Jermaine Pennant spun around and screamed at his teammates at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night: "Come on, let's keep the ball, hold on to the ball."
It was supposed be a lesson dished out as Tampines Rovers, boasting some of the best footballers in the country and with a good mix of foreign players, huffed and puffed against a bunch of young upstarts looking to find their way in the game.
The Garena Young Lions made a game of it, and made the five-time Great Eastern S.League champions sweat for a 2-1 win, in what was perhaps the best performance by Patrick Hesse's charges this year.
"People said we were going to score seven or eight goals against the Young Lions, but it wasn't easy," Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy admitted.
"Anywhere in the world when a so-called big team play a small team, that's when problems arise. Those young boys were very motivated, and they wanted to show that they are good enough for the S.League, and they are clearly getting more confident."
It was a placid Tampines side who trooped out at Jalan Besar last night.
They kept the lion's share of possession but, devoid of ideas, largely struggled to break down the Young Lions in the first half and needed a stroke of luck to open the scoring.
It came in first-half added time, with Shakir Hamzah lashing the ball in after Chris van Huizen's corner found its way to the post via Fabian Kwok.
The Stags added a second through van Huizen, who scored in the 50th minute after Pennant's initial shot was well saved by Young Lions' goalkeeper, Benjamin Bertrand.
The dangerous Fareez Farhan pulled one back with a well-struck penalty in the 62nd minute after Shakir unfortunately handled a Muhimin Suhaimi cross.
Fareez remains the Young Lions' only goalscorer this season with four strikes to his name.
Inspired by the goal, the home side put pressure on the Tampines goal, but required their goalkeeper to pull off another good save - off Shahdan Sulaiman in the 83rd minute - to stay in the game.
"I couldn't see the difference between the Young Lions and Tampines, we are very proud of our players. This is the first time, during a game, that I've seen progress (in my team)," said Hesse, who walked into the post-match press conference ranting about Tampines disallowing Firdaus Kasman from playing last night.
Firdaus signed with Tampines, but was allowed to join the Young Lions in January, with the caveat that he would not play in matches against his former club.
The Frenchman was buzzing at the progress his charges have shown and was confident that come the end of the season, they will not be propping up the nine-team league table.
"I promise you we will be better. Today we lost, but we can see progress... I'm sure we can be better, I'm sure. I'm sure we're going to succeed," was Hesse's emphatic declaration.
Tampines lost goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who came off in the 78th minute with what appeared to be a thigh injury, but Sundram was already looking ahead.
His team joined Albirex Niigata at the top of the table, but with a game in hand.
"At 2-0, we should've gone for a third, but that penalty changed the game," said Sundram.
"But three points are three points and we're moving on, looking forward to the next game."
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH:
Benjamin Bertrand (Garena Young Lions)
YOUNG LIONS: Benjamin Bertrand, Rusyaidi Salime, Amirul Adli, Shannon Stephen, Irfan Asyraf, Joshua Pereira, Ammirul Emmran, Adam Swandi, Hami Syahin (Zulfadhmi Suzliman 70), Fareez Farhan (Gareth Low 88), Hazim Faiz (Muhaimin Suhaimi 60).
TAMPINES: Izwan Mahbud (Joey Sim 78), Fabian Kwok, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah, Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman, Chris van Huizen (Fazrul Nawaz 62), Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb (Hafiz Abu Sujad 65), Billy Mehmet.
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