Scorers: Duric (70min, 72min), Amri (80min)
Tampines Rovers called upon their fitness coach and part-time striker, the renowned Aleksandar Duric, to provide the springboard for their comfortable 3-0 win over Hougang United at Clementi Stadium on Sunday evening.
The re-arranged game, originally scheduled for April 13 and was subsequently postponed due to lightning activity, suffered no such difficulties the second time around, but a stubborn and resilient Hougang United threatened to disturb the Stags’ efforts to post another win and add to the distance between themselves and the chasing pack.
It needed the impetus of Duric to lift the Stags from their lethargy as the recently retired Singapore international took only seven minutes to open his side’s account, having come on in the 63rd minute as a replacement for Jamil Ali.
Operating on the left mostly, as Jamil had done for much of his time on the field, Duric immediately made an impact, testing Cheetahs’ goalkeeper Fadhil Salim in the 65th minute with a low shot that squeezed just wide of the left-hand upright after speeding down the flank and outpacing his marker with his trademark acceleration.
That was a warning Hougang was unable to heed as five minutes later Duric was able to beat Fadhil with a far-post header after Sead Hadzibulic had nodded on a cross from the right by Jufri Taha, with the goalkeeper only able to dive to his right in vain and help the ball into the net.
Two minutes later Duric was at it again, belying his age and height to stoop low and head past Fadhil – again at the far post – but this time from a cross from the left by partner-in-crime Hadzibulic.
Clearly overwhelmed by the introduction of Duric and even more so by his two rapid-fire goals, the Cheetahs were unable to respond and it was no surprise that they conceded a third.
This time it was Khairul Amri who benefitted from a ball laid back to him by Duric from the near post, after Imran Sahib had raced to the right by-line and pulled the ball back nicely. Amri swept the ball home gleefully and Hougang were well and truly finished.
Finished that is, apart from a booming shot from substitute Robert Eziakor in the 90th minute that Stags goalkeeper Sasa Dreven saved at full stretch, as they extended their lead at the top of the table.