Stags off to a sizzling start
Tampines Rovers sent a warning to their title rivals yesterday, with an emphatic 5-1 trouncing of Hougang United in their season-opener at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
|HOUGANG UNITED||TAMPINES ROVERS|
|(Faris Ramli 55-pen)||(Irwan Shah 45, Ryutaro Megumi 64, Zulfahmi Arifin 71-og, Zehrudin Mehmedovic 76, Jordan Webb 90+2)|
Hougang, who finished bottom of the Singapore Premier League last season, were expected to start off stronger this year with a slew of big-name signings such as attackers Stipe Plazibat, Faris Ramli and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin.
They managed to restrict Tampines to just a one-goal lead - courtesy of Irwan Shah - at half-time, but proved no match for the Stags after right-back Justin Hui was sent off following a second yellow card in the 50th minute.
The 21-year-old insisted that he would not have relented in his challenges, though.
"My red card was the changing factor (of the game). It's difficult to fight Tampines with 10 men, but I would not have done anything differently. I had to close my player down," said Hui, who received his second caution after catching Tampines midfielder Zehrudin Mehmedovic on the leg.
Five minutes after Hui's sending-off, Faris equalised for the Cheetahs from the spot, after being brought down by Tampines' veteran defender Daniel Bennett.
However, the Stags soon restored their lead.
In the 64th minute, Bennett sent a long ball to winger Ryutaro Megumi, who zoomed down the right flank to score from a tight angle.
Just seven minutes later, while attempting to clear the ball in the penalty box, Hougang captain Zulfahmi slipped it past goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid instead.
Mehmedovic (76th minute) and Jordan Webb (92nd minute) then added gloss on the scoreline.
Hougang coach Clement Teo insisted that he couldn't fault his players. He said: "It's frustrating in terms of results but not in effort. I can't fault them.
"What's important now is to motivate my players again."
Tampines first-team coach Gavin Lee was pleased with their victory but still saw room for improvement.
He said: "We didn't kill the game as early as we should have. Our challenge now is to remain consistent." - ADEENA NAGIB
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