Jaguars get there in the end
Vallee praises his men for their grit as Tanjong Pagar hang on to slender lead
TANJONG PAGAR 1
(Monsef Zerka 76)
HOUGANG UNITED 0
This time, there were no slip-ups.
Tanjong Pagar United hung on for a 1-0 win over Hougang United in their preliminary-round RHB Singapore Cup match last night at the Queenstown Stadium.
The Jaguars, beaten finalists in last year's competition, have been in patchy form in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League this season, conceding goals in the final 10 minutes in six of their 13 league games.
But last night, after Monsef Zerka had put them ahead with a header in the 76th minute, they fought tooth and nail to cling on to their lead until the end.
With the win, Patrick Vallee's men moved into the quarter-finals and will only know who they play next after a draw, to be conducted next week after all eight preliminary round matches have been completed.
After the game, the French coach (above) said: "When I saw 88 minutes (on the clock), I knew the game was finished, we had won."
Last month, the Jaguars drew 1-1 with the Warriors FC after their defence was breached only in the 88th minute - the latest they have conceded a goal this year.
Vallee hailed his team's fighting spirit, and singled out midfielder Sazali Salleh and defenders Zahid Ahmad and Hanafi Salleh for their contribution.
The three players had been struggling with injuries but returned ahead of schedule last night, and played the full 90 minutes.
"They are not fully recovered, but they told me they wanted to try (to play) for the team because this is a cup game," said the coach.
"If it was an S.League game, they wouldn't have played. We wouldn't have taken the risk.
"But when the players show you the desire, you must support them.
"Zahid was out two months, Sazali one month, and Hanafi about three weeks, but tonight all three played the whole game.
"I'm very proud of what they did. A lot of other players, if they were carrying the same injuries, would not care."
Vallee said it wasn't his side's best performance of the season, and the Jaguars had to thank goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson for his second-half heroics.
In the 59th minute, the shot-stopper pulled off an acrobatic save to keep out Erwan Gunawan's close-range effort.
Four minutes later, he denied Fairoz Hasan in a one-on-one situation, after the forward was presented the ball by makeshift centre back Ahmad Latiff.
The saves helped Tanjong Pagar keep their first clean sheet of the season.
Hougang coach Amin Nasir lavished praised on Herisson, and said: "We created a lot of chances in the second half, but we fell asleep once and they capitalised.
"Compared to (the 1-1 draw with Tanjong Pagar in the league) last week, we performed better tonight but we couldn't get the result we wanted."
- TG PAGAR: Aurelien Herisson, Ruzaini Zainal, Ahmad Latiff, Hanafi Salleh, Zahid Ahmad, Firdaus Idros, Tengku Mushadad, Sazali Salleh, Kamel Ramdani, Sebastian Etiemble, Monsef Zerka
- HOUGANG: Fadhil Salim, Faizal Amir (Durica Zuparic 88), Firman Hanif, Igor Cerina, Wahyudi Wahid, Fairoz Hasan, Shunsuke Nakatake, Azhar Sairudin, Fazli Jaffar, Erwan Gunawan (Geison Moura 65), Diego Gama
- TNP Man of the Match: Aurelien Herisson (Tanjong Pagar)
- Today's fixtures: Woodlands v Geylang (7.30pm, Woodlands Stadium) Warriors v Balestier Khalsa (7.30pm, Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
Zahid was out two months, Sazali one month, and Hanafi about three weeks, but tonight all three played the whole game. I'm very proud of what they did.
- Tanjong Pagar coach Patrick Vallee, on Zahid Ahmad, Sazali Salleh and Hanafi Salleh