Inspired Izwan helps Tampines earn first win of the season
Stags earn first three points of the season, thanks to goalkeeper's heroics
|TAMPINES ROVERS||HOUGANG UNITED|
|(Ivan Dzoni 29-pen, Khairul Amri 61)||(Fumiya Kogure 90+1-pen)|
By his own admission, Tampines Rovers goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud had a 2016 to forget.
After enduring a year of uncharacteristic mistakes - which culminated in a blunder in the RHB Singapore Cup final last October - the national shot-stopper had vowed to bounce back this year.
He went some way to restoring his reputation with a stunning save that proved to be the difference in last night's Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League match at Jalan Besar Stadium, as he helped Tampines to a 2-1 win over Hougang United.
In the 27th minute of the match, with the score at 0-0, Izwan pulled off a stupendous point-blank save to deny Atsushi Shirota, showing superb reflex to dive to his left and claw the ball away from behind him.
It was a save that had Tampines coach Juergen Raab beaming, as he paid his tribute to his goalkeeper.
Said Raab: "I know what Izwan can deliver, he's a really good goalkeeper.
"If that ball had gone in and we had gone 1-0 down, I'm not sure how we would have reacted.
"These details decide if we win or lose a match, and the difference Izwan made was enormous."
Within a minute of Izwan's save, Tampines were awarded a penalty at the other end of the pitch, after Khairul Amri was fouled by Zulfahmi Arifin.
Up stepped former Croatia Under-17 captain Ivan Dzoni to put his team in front.
Amri then doubled Tampines' lead just past the hour mark, when he headed home from close range.
Tampines had some nervy moments towards the end though.
First, defender Jufri Taha had to scramble the ball off the line from substitute Iqbal Hussain's deflected shot in the 79th minute.
Then in injury time, Fumiya Kogure pulled a goal back for Hougang from the penalty spot after Iqbal was tripped by Syed Haziq in the box.
But the Stags managed to cling on for their first three points of the season, after last week's 2-1 defeat by Albirex Niigata in the Great Eastern Community Shield.
Raab, who could name only five substitutes partly down to suspensions to Madhu Mohana, Ismadi Mukhtar and Yasir Hanapi - who were all sent off against Albirex - praised his charges for their resilience.
"It was a very strange situation for us, but I must give big compliments to the team for what they have done," said the German.
"We had people like Jufri (Taha) and Imran (Sahib), who have not played for a long time, and Amri, who delivered 80 minutes on his first start (on returning from a groin injury)."
Hougang coach Philippe Aw was in no doubt Izwan had provided the turning point of the game.
"The start of the game was good with both teams going at each other, then the turning point - the save - came," he said.
"In football it can be like this. When you have a chance, you don't put it away, and the next moment you concede a penalty.
"We were disappointed we are going home with zero points, I thought we could have at least secured a point.
"Having said that, Tampines still put out a quality team with many experienced players on the field."
In yesterday's other match, Home United beat Brunei DPMM 3-1 in Bandar Seri Begawan.