Tampines Rovers stay alive in S.League title race
Stags miss hatful of chances but keep alive their title hopes
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Jamil Ali 45)
HOUGANG UNITED 0
By V Sundramoorthy's own admission, it was far from a vintage performance by his Tampines Rovers side.
But at this stage of the season, with the Stags desperately looking to keep alive their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title hopes, the result is all that matters.
Which is why Sundram was still a satisfied man at the Jurong West Stadium last night, after watching his charges sneak a 1-0 triumph over Hougang United that lifted them up to third.
Jamil Ali was the match-winner as he popped up with the only goal of the game just before the break, although the Stags' failure to add a second led to some tense moments right at the death.
"The most important thing for us was to move up the ladder," said a relieved Sundram, after the match.
"It is good to climb up to third and now we can move on to the next game and see how we can come back stronger.
"We really needed that second goal to calm everything down but we kept missing chances.
"In the end, we had to work hard in the last 10 minutes to keep that one-goal lead, even having to bring (striker Rodrigo) Tosi back to mark Kuni(hiro Yamashita)."
With Tampines having played their last game three weeks ago, it was perhaps no surprise they looked off the pace in the opening exchanges, although they gradually found their rhythm.
Ridhuan Muhamad was the first to threaten for the hosts in the 18th minute but Cheetahs goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin did well to race off his line and deny him, before Ismail Yunos, Tosi, Jamil and Roberto Alviz all spurned decent opportunities.
On the stroke of halftime, however, the deadlock was broken when Firdaus Idros beat the offside trap and stabbed the ball past the onrushing Ridhuan to leave Jamil with the easiest of finishes.
The Stags continued to carve out chances in the second half but failed to add to their lead through a combination of poor finishing and an inspired display by Ridhuan.
Twice, the Hougang custodian kept out efforts by Firdaus and Alviz from point-blank range, before producing an even better one-handed save in a one-on-one with Tosi.
Buoyed by their goalkeeper's heroics, the visitors mustered one final push to find an equaliser as centre back Yamashita was thrown up alongside Vuk Sotirovic and Diego Gama in a three-pronged attack.
It was ultimately not to be as Tampines did just enough to hold out for the win, in the process moving six points behind leaders Brunei DPMM FC, who were held to a 4-4 draw by Home United in last night's other game.
Despite the disappointment, Hougang coach Salim Moin chose to look at the positives.
"The satisfying thing was that the team carried out the game plan accordingly," said the veteran coach.
"For all the ball possession Tampines had in their own half, they failed to break down our defensive organisation.
"Unfortunately, it was an uncharacteristic error on our part that led to their goal."
TAMPINES ROVERS: Rodrigo Pacheco, Ismadi Mukhtar, Ismail Yunos, Jufri Taha, Shaiful Esah, Naeem Rahimi, Roberto Alviz, Ridhuan Muhamad (Aqhari Abdullah 74), Jamil Ali (Fabian Kwok 68), Firdaus Idros (Isa Halim 61), Rodrigo Tosi.
HOUGANG UNITED: Ridhuan Barudin, Ruzaini Zainal (Kenneth Chang 87), Kunihiro Yamashita, Delwinder Singh, Faiz Salleh, Atsushi Shimono, Carlos Delgado (Taufiq Ghani 63), Diego Gama, Nurhilmi Jasni, Fazli Jaffar (Fareez Farhan 63), Vuk Sotirovic.
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Ridhuan Barudin (Hougang United).
- Brunei DPMM 4 Home United 4