Alam Shah drags Stags back
Veteran forward drags Stags back into title race with winner
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Kunihiro Yamashita 57, Noh Alam Shah 68)
BRUNEI DPMM 1
(Rodrigo Tosi 44)
They haven't been at their best recently.
But Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League defending champions Tampines Rovers showed last night they are not about give up without a fight, after beating league leaders Brunei DPMM 2-1 at the Clementi Stadium.
The fourth-placed Stags had to thank veteran striker Noh Alam Shah for the three points, which moved them to within three points of DPMM.
Despite a niggling back injury, the 33-year-old rolled back the years with an outstanding performance, and scored the winner in the 68th minute.
Listed as a surprise starter ahead of Aleksandar Duric and marquee player Miljan Mrdakovic, Alam Shah was in the mood from the start.
Within the first 10 minutes he took a long punt beautifully on his chest, eluded his marker's challenge and fired a fierce shot, which DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof did well to keep out.
The visitors took the lead just before the break through Rodrigo Tosi's header, but Tampines equalised through Kunihiro Yamashita in the 57th minute.
Big games are often decided by big players, and Alam Shah showed his reliability with about 20 minutes to go.
He darted behind the DPMM defence to latch on to a superb Shahdan Sulaiman through pass and toe-poked the ball past an onrushing Wardun.
The ex-Singapore striker, whose 17-goal tally in the AFF Suzuki Cup is still unmatched, was not done yet.
While he asked to be substituted just moments after scoring, Alam Shah still had time to spin his marker inside the box and sent a low shot just wide.
He was then replaced by Mrdakovic and walked off to a standing ovation by the Tampines faithful.
Alam Shah was still buzzing after the game.
"When I scored, I knew it was the winner," he said.
"In training, I told the boys I had a strong feeling we would beat DPMM.
"It feels great to have your former teammates (Tampines coach Rafi Ali and his assistant Satria Mad) as your coaches, because they know your strengths and how to use you best.
"As for the faith they showed me to be in the first 11? I think I earned it 10 years ago, not just before this game.
"And I'm a guy who doesn't let you down if you believe in me."
Rafi said: "I'm very happy for Alam Shah. He worked his guts out today and really deserved his goal.
"I told my boys, we work from here. We can't relax, we have to keep going."
Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng, who appointed Rafi as coach in late April after the resignation of Salim Moin, said: "This was the best I've seen them play this season.
"If they can keep it up, we'll be okay."
For Steve Kean's men, it was their third successive loss in the S.League, and their lead at the top has been whittled down from 10 points to just one.
The ex-Blackburn Rovers manager was defiant in defeat, though.
He said: "We're disappointed to lose three league games in a row, but they were very, very hard games.
"The positive we've got is we're still ahead, and if you look at our run of games in the first round where we won seven games in a row, there's no reason we can't do that again."
TAMPINES: Justin Pasfield, Anaz Hadee (Jufri Taha 70), Kunihiro Yamashita, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shaiful Esah, Imran Sahib (Aleksandar Duric 82), Jake Butler, Shahdan Sulaiman, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jozef Kaplan, Noh Alam Shah (Miljan Mrdakovic 73)
DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Subhi Abdilah, Abdul Aziz Tamit, Boris Raspudic, Sairol Sahari, Joe Gamble, Najib Tarif (Azwan Saleh 60), Rosmin Kamis, Azwan Ali (Shahrazen Said 85), Rodrigo Tosi (Adi Said 60), Roy O' Donovan
TNP Man of the Match: Noh Alam Shah
Win on their minds
Woodlands Wellington visit Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium tonight, with both teams desperate for the three points.
Woodlands were beaten 2-0 by Tanjong Pagar United in their last S.League game on Sunday, 11 days after Geylang International beat them 5-1 in the RHB Singapore Cup.
Darren Stewart's men, who are ninth in the 12-team standings, are hoping a win will give them the boost they need to climb up the table.
Albirex, meanwhile, are also in search of that winning feeling.
Touted as dark horses for the title, they could only draw 1-1 with Balestier Khalsa in their last game, just three days after they were beaten 1-0 at home by Hougang United.