Tampines Rovers goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari plays starring role in win
Tampines goalkeeper's saves help his team make a winning start to SPL
Goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari's impeccable form between the sticks made all the difference for Tampines Rovers, as they pipped Balestier Khalsa 1-0 to ensure a winning start to their Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign at Our Tampines Hub yesterday.
The 27-year-old made a string of crucial saves, which included stopping a penalty by Tigers' star striker Shuhei Hoshino, to preserve their lead, courtesy of Boris Kopitovic's goal after just eight minutes.
|TAMPINES ROVERS||BALESTIER KHALSA|
|(Boris Kopitovic 8)|
Hoshino, who won the 2018 SPL Golden Boot after scoring 18 goals with Albirex Niigata, earned the spot-kick in the 58th minute and sent the ball firmly towards the bottom-left corner, but Syazwan dived correctly to stop it with his legs.
Just six minutes later, Hoshino was denied by Syazwan again. The Japanese striker unleashed a stinging shot after a back-heel pass from Hazzuwan Halim, but the Stags' custodian was quick to nudge the ball over the bar.
In the dying minutes, Balestier almost found the equaliser through new defender Ensar Bruncevic whose 1.96-metre stature gave him a clear header from a corner- till Syazwan tipped the ball away.
Unsurprisingly, Tampines coach Gavin Lee sang praises of Syazwan after the game.
Said Lee: "He did extremely well with saving the penalty but also overall, from the corners and shots on goal. Kudos to him, he played very well.
"Starting the season with a win is important for us. We knew that Balestier isn't an easy side and last year, we struggled with them.
"There were some tired legs (from the game) but I praise all my players for their effort and grit."
Tampines took an early lead in the eighth minute when young midfielder Joel Chew's cross behind the defence found Montenegrin forward Kopitovic, who volleyed past Tigers' skipper Zaiful Nizam for his seventh goal in eight games.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic admitted that it was a "sloppy goal" to concede.
He said: "We started slow. After we woke up and started playing, we made a lot of chances although the final touch was not there.
"But, I'm very proud of the boys. Even after the penalty (miss), we came back. "
Kraljevic hopes the Tigers will bring the same aggression to the Bishan Stadium on Saturday when they host Albirex, who started their campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of Geylang International two days ago.
Tampines, meanwhile, will be shaping up for an early showdown with defending champions Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan on Friday.
Elsewhere yesterday, Hougang United trounced Young Lions 4-1 at the Jurong West Stadium.
Stipe Plazibat scored a hat-trick and defender Jordan Vestering bagged a rebound for the Cheetahs, while Ilhan Fandi netted a consolation goal for the Young Lions.
Young Lions forward Khairin Nadim became the youngest SPL debutant in history at 15 years and 298 days when he came on in the 75th minute.