Tampines coach Raab: Target still second spot
Tampines coach plays down team's good form, saying it's too late for title talk
|BALESTIER KHALSA||TAMPINES ROVERS|
(Fazrul Nawaz 53)
The performance wasn't pretty, but the outcome was just what Tampines Rovers coach Juergen Raab wanted and expected.
His team kept their slim hopes of winning the Great Eastern-Hyundai's S.League title alive with a 1-0 win over Balestier Khalsa at the Toa Payoh Stadium last night.
With their seventh win in nine S.League matches, the Stags are now nine points behind league leaders Albirex Niigata.
However, Tampines have a game in hand, with six matches left to play.
Said Raab: "It was not a brilliant performance, but the result was the one we wanted and expected.
"We knew it would be a difficult match because of Balestier's style, and also the pitch here at Toa Payoh.
"The main positive tonight is my team's patience, and believing in our ability to score."
In a well-contested first half with few clear goalscoring chances, Tampines defender Madhu Mohana came closest to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when his header off a corner crashed against the upright.
But Tampines did get their goal eight minutes after the restart.
Hafiz Abu Sujad charged to the byeline and whipped in a cross that was headed back across goal by Ryutaro Megumi for Fazrul Nawaz to guide the ball home.
Balestier, who have struggled for goals all season having scored only 11 in 19 games, failed to trouble the visitors much after going behind.
Their best chance came in the 74th minute when Singapore Under-22 attacker Hanafi Akbar's cross-shot was palmed into the danger area by Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.
Luckily for Tampines, there was no Balestier player around to pounce on the opportunity.
While Raab praised his side for their good form, he played down talk they could catch up with Albirex.
"We have six matches, and I have said before our target is second place," said the German.
"We will see if we can continue our form, and from there, we see what happens (with the title race)."
For Balestier, meanwhile, the result means they have gone 14 games without a win.
Their last victory was in early April, when they posted back-to-back wins over the Garena Young Lions and Brunei DPMM - the only two teams currently below them on the nine-team league table.
Said coach Marko Kraljevic: "For the goal, the cross came in, the ball was headed back to the middle, and they had the finishing touch... I think we could have handled it better.
"Their back three (of Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett and Madhu Mohana) are over 100 years old (101 years), I think we should have caused them more problems.
"But that was the difference between the two teams - quality in front of goal."
BALESTIER: Zaiful Nizam, Tajeli Salamat, Ashrul Shafeeq, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fadli Kamis, Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit (Zulkhair Mustaffa 77), Kyaw Zayar Win (Shah Hirul 69), Raihan Rahman, Aung Kyaw Naing, Jonathan Tan (Hanafi Akbar 62), Hazzuwan Halim
TAMPINES: Izwan Mahbud, Ismadi Mukhtar, Madhu Mohana, Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Ryutaro Megumi, Fazrul Nawaz (Fazli Ayob 68), Hafiz Abu Sujad (Hafiz Rahim 92), Ivan Dzoni (Shannon Stephen 88)