Tampines back in title hunt with 1-0 victory over DPMM
Tampines keep title hopes alive with pivotal win over DPMM
BRUNEI DPMM 0
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Naeem Rahimi 75)
Ahead of last night's titanic clash between Brunei DPMM and Tampines Rovers, both camps had acknowledged that it was one game that could define this Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season's title race.
It turned out to be true, but it was the Stags who were celebrating after Naeem Rahimi's 75th-minute strike sealed a crucial 1-0 win at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium.
Tampines, who climbed into second place following the win, are now very much masters of their own destiny.
They trail leaders DPMM by six points but can move level at the top by winning both their games in hand.
The significance of last night's result was not lost on Stags coach V Sundramoorthy.
"It's in our hands now," Sundram told The New Paper. "Now that we've opened up the title race again, I believe anything can happen.
"If we win our remaining matches, then that's a big possibility we will go on and win the title."
It could have been a different story considering DPMM were the dominant side early on in last night's game, but they failed to make their chances count.
Maududi Hilmi threatened with a couple of speculative attempts, Joe Gamble and Azwan Ali spurned decent openings, while Tampines goalkeeper Rodrigo Pacheco did well to deny both Boris Raspudic and Rafael Ramazotti.
Even a draw would have been a huge blow to the visitors' title hopes, and it seemed as though Sundram managed to get that message across to his charges at the break.
They came out for the second half with renewed vigour and aggression and slowly wrested control from the Bruneian side.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Stags finally made the breakthrough when substitute Ridhuan Muhamad's low cross was cleared by Raspudic straight to Naeem, who made no mistake in lashing a shot past Wardun Yussof.
Things got a little nervy for the visitors towards the end when Naeem was sent off in the 82nd minute after being shown a second yellow card.
But they ultimately did enough for the three points, with Pacheco producing a couple of fine saves right at the death to deny both Gamble and Rosmin Kamis.
Sundram was particulary pleased with the resilience of his players, saying: "Everybody was running himself to the ground and fighting for one another.
"The players have worked so hard to be where we are at this moment… Three to four weeks ago, it looked like we didn't stand a chance.
"Now, what we should do is take each game at a time and keep our fingers crossed, but the most important thing is that we've given ourselves a real chance."