Tampines' title hopes alive after comeback win over Home
Tampines come from behind to beat Home and stay in the hunt for title
HOME UNITED 2
(Jufri Taha 42-og, Stanely Ng 61)
TAMPINES ROVERS 3
(Mateo Roskam 30, 66, Pedrag Pocuca 71)
Isa Halim was limping, dragging himself around the heavy pitch at Yishun Stadium last night.
The Tampines Rovers midfielder managed to last 33 minutes more than his battered skipper, Mustafic Fahrudin.
Fahrudin dropped to the pitch four times before he was eventually stretchered off in the 57th minute as the Stags trailed a slick-passing Home United 2-1.
Just when their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title hopes looked dead and buried, V Sundramoorthy's charges found just enough in the tank to come from behind to win 3-2 and keep their fading aspirations alive.
"In mid-season, everyone wrote us off, but now, going into the last two matches of the season, we're still in with a chance - we're staying alive," said a beaming Sundram, whose side have played four games in 12 days.
"We've played a lot of football recently, and the boys are really tired.
"This was about character, and the boys showed that belief tonight."
With the win, Tampines moved to 44 points, five behind league leaders Brunei DPMM who have played a game more.
The Stags will have four days to recover before facing Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium on Friday, when they need another win to take the title race to the last day of the season.
Tampines will need another victory - against Harimau Muda on Nov 20 - and hope Balestier Khalsa do them a favour by beating DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan a day later.
Last night, Tampines took the lead against the run of play with their first real attempt on the Home goal.
Home goalkeeper Shahril Jantan could only parry Firdaus Idros' 30th-minute shot into the path of Mateo Roskam, who made no mistake from close range.
The chance came about after Juma'at Jantan uncharacteristically gave the ball away at the top of his own box.
Home still did not relinquish control of the game, but it was the unfortunate Jufri Taha who slid a Sirina Camara ball across the face of goal into the Tampines net, three minutes before half-time.
Stanely Ng scored at the far post off a Sufianto Salleh left-wing cross in the 61st minute and the goal looked to deal a fatal blow to Tampines' title chances, but up stepped Fabian Kwok.
Tormented by Camara for most of the game, the midfielder who slotted in at right back on the day, sent two lovely deliveries into the box.
The first was a corner in the 66th minute and it was brilliantly volleyed home by Roskam.
The second was an inswinging cross which was headed home by Pedrag Pocuca five minutes later.
That turned out to be the winner and kept Tampines' hopes alive.
"We wanted to beat Tampines today and be the party-poopers, but they stayed alive. The better team lost today, I firmly believe that," said Home coach Philppe Aw, who warned that Albirex will not be pushovers on Friday.
Pushovers or not, Tampines will not have it easy.
Sundram will have to juggle club and national commitments as he assists national coach Bernd Stange in a World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Japan on Thursday.
Stags left back Shaiful Esah will also be on national duty, returning to Tampines' title charge the next day, when they face Albirex.
"I haven't thought about (the Shaiful situation) yet, but we got the job done against a good Home United team," said Sundram.
"Now we will take these few days to recover before we face Albirex, and maybe we can push things until the last day of the season."
HOME UNITED: Shahril Jantan, Juma'at Jantan, Noh Rahman, Abdil Qaiyyim, Sufianto Salleh (Imran Sahib 74), Stanely Ng (Nur Hizami 85), Song Uiyong, Kamel Ramdani, Sirina Camara, Ken Ilso, Azhar Sairudin
TAMPINES ROVERS: Rodrigo Pacheco, Ismail Yunos, Mustafic Fahrudin (Ismadi Mukhtar 57), Pedrag Pocuca, Jufri Taha, Fabian Kwok, Isa Halim, Roberto Alviz (Ridhuan Muhamad 62) (Shaiful Esah 89), Firdaus Idros, Mateo Roskam, Rodrigo Tosi
- TNP Man of the match: Fabian Kwok (Tampines Rovers)