Tampines coach Raab rules out title hopes despite win
Tampines can still catch leaders Albirex but coach Raab insists title is out of reach
|GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL||TAMPINES ROVERS|
|(Shawal Anuar 8, Yuki Ichikawa 47)||(Mustafic Fahrudin 37, Fazrul Nawaz 72, Fazli Ayob 89)|
Six cards, five goals, three goalmouth clearances and two penalty calls turned down.
The Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League Eastern Derby between Geylang International and Tampines Rovers at Our Tampines Hub last night was one full-blooded affair.
Tampines came from behind twice to emerge 3-2 victors in the exciting showdown, which almost descended into a melee at the death, after Geylang's Al-Qaasimy Rahman fouled Tampines' Khairul Amri, and the latter's teammate Fazli Ayob shoved the Eagles defender in the back.
With the win, the Stags stayed second on 44 points, six points behind leaders Albirex Niigata with four games left.
Home United are third on 40 points after defeating Hougang United 2-0 in the other game last night.
It is still mathematically possible for Tampines to overtake Albirex, but their coach Juergen Raab insists the S.League title is out of their reach.
"The title is not possible, if we are honest. Albirex are six points ahead and they are not going to face Home United or us any more this season," he said.
"We look for only second place and it would be a great success for the team, given the circumstances we faced the whole season."
Raab had failed to postpone last night's tie, as the nine national players in his team had spent a taxing two-and-a-half weeks with the Lions in preparation for last week's Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan.
He added he had just two days to prepare for last night's tie after the Lions returned.
The match started on a bright note after Noor Ali's side took a shock lead in the eighth minute when Shawal Anuar slid the ball home after being put through by Ricardo Sendra.
Tampines came close to scoring on several occasions before captain Mustafic Fahrudin equalised with a header in the 37th minute.
The Eagles went ahead again just after the break when Yuki Ichikawa ghosted in unmarked at the far post to nod home Darren Teh's corner kick, but substitute Fazrul Nawaz pulled the Stags back into the game with a glancing header in the 72nd minute.
Raab's men almost scored on three other occasions if not for the heroics of Geylang goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari and goal-mouth clearances by his defenders.
The Stags lost defender Ismadi Mukhtar to a straight red in the closing stages of the game, but collected all three points via substitute Fazli Ayob's unstoppable drive inside the box in the 89th minute.
Despite the loss, Geylang coach Noor Ali was proud of his charges.
He said: "Yuki was injured but played well, Gabriel (Quak) played with a fever and Isa (Halim) was struggling on the field, I didn't even have a bench.
"I went into the game knowing I didn't have a team, and they did their best.
"We matched Tampines over 90 minutes and I couldn't fault their commitment."
- Hougang United 0 Home United 2