Tampines close gap on leaders Albirex
Tempers fray at the end as Tampines beat Geylang in heated encounter
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Jordan Webb 21, Billy Mehmet 40)
GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL 1
(Mark Hartmann 42)
It should have been a perfect evening for Tampines Rovers.
A 2-1 victory at Jurong West Stadium over Geylang International last night narrowed the gap on Albirex Niigata to one point, ahead of the league leaders' tricky match against Brunei DPMM tonight.
However, the Stags' positive result was marred by ugly scenes at the final whistle both on the field, and on the touchline, as tempers boiled over at the conclusion of what had already been a heated encounter.
The feisty nature of the match even prompted Tampines coach Akbar Nawas to withdraw playmaker Jermaine Pennant before half-time, marring a game that should have presented them with more positives than negatives.
"It's a good result that keeps us in the race and puts some pressure on Albirex for their next game," said Akbar.
"Even at half-time, I told the players that Geylang are very competitive and will come at us in the manner which they did.
"It was most important for the players to not get emotionally involved with the referee or the opposition players, but they're all human at the end of the day.
"No matter how composed you are, there's only so much you can take when someone is irritating you, but I think the officials did well to control both teams."
It did not take both sides long to get stuck in from the opening whistle, but it was the Stags who drew first blood in the 21st minute.
Latching onto a long pass by Izzdin Shafiq, Jordan Webb burst past Al-Qaasimy Rahman to break free inside the box before coolly slotting past Syazwan Buhari.
One of the game's flashpoints then led to their second goal when Pennant, having been cynically hacked down by Al-Qaasimy, floated the resultant free-kick straight to Billy Mehmet, who made no mistake in guiding his header into the far corner.
Pennant, who had been limping slightly by now, was hauled off by Akbar and, almost immediately, Geylang pulled one back when Shawal Anuar brilliantly beat two defenders before sending a cross for Mark Hartmann to stab home from two metres.
Eagles coach Hasrin Jailani used all three of his substitutions at the break and one of them, Sahil Suhaimi, nearly fired them level in the 51st minute when his low drive came back off the foot of the post.
The visitors continued to push forward as the game reached its final stages, but it was just not to be as they had a penalty appeal turned down after Shawal fell over inside the box.
Gabriel Quak's neat header from a Sahil corner then sailed narrowly wide in injury time.
Despite the defeat, and the unsavoury scenes at the end, Geylang coach Hasrin preferred to focus on the positives.
"I think we did everything we could except putting the ball into the net (for a second time)," he explained.
"I felt that I had to make those three changes at half-time because the tempo had changed and I wanted to go for the win.
"There's nothing to hide... In our last seven games, we will be going all out for maximum points and now we're looking forward to our next game against DPMM."
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah, Jordan Webb, Izzdin Shafiq, Jermaine Pennant (Yasir Hanapi 41), Hafiz Abu Sujad (Afiq Yunos 90), Billy Mehmet (Fabian Kwok 73), Fazrul Nawaz.
- GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL: Syazwan Buhari, Al-Qaasimy Rahman (Daniel Bennett 46), Shariff Samat (Sahil Suhaimi 46), Yuki Ichikawa, Anders Aplin, Isa Halim (Gabriel Quak 46), Roberto Camarasa, Safirul Sulaiman, Stanely Ng, Shawal Anuar, Mark Hartmann.
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Izzdin Shafiq (Tampines Rovers)