Two wins in a row and a best-ever goal-tally were the noteworthy achievements of the Tampines Rovers’ women’s team, following Sunday’s game against the useful Girls Dream Team (GDT) Circuit FC at Queenstown Stadium.
Overcoming a somewhat sluggish start, conceding a goal after only eleven minutes, the visitors fought back well to draw level in the 25th, before going on to post a resounding 4-1 win over a side they’d already beaten in a pre-season trial game at the Tampines’ team’s training base, ITE College East, back in mid-February.
Having broken their season’s duck the previous week with a narrow win over Arion Football Academy, the talented Tampines side, whose oldest squad member is barely 27, proved that their previous trial-game win was no fluke and that the win against Arion was just the tonic the team needed to move their campaign onto a more solid footing.
Tampines were clearly not fully-wound-up at the start of the game, as they succumbed easily to an opening goal that saw the ball, sent over into a packed penalty-area from a corner on the left, easily volleyed home by GDT forward, Shaeerah Samat, who was given more than ample time to get her shot away, with defenders slow to spot the danger.
Tampines had won corners of their own during the opening 15 minutes, but were nowhere near as clinical as their opponents, their best effort being a shot driven wide in the 13th minute by Adelia Azeman. Tampines almost conceded a second in the 22nd, as the goal-hungry Shaeerah charged through in pursuit of a clever through-ball, but Tampines’ keeper, Aisha Kasmawi, was this time alert to the danger and raced out to boot clear, before the GDT striker could finish the move.
Once they’d survived that second early scare, Tampines finally awoke from their slumber and were soon able to draw level.
The equaliser arrived in the 25th, after a deep cross from the left saw the GDT keeper hesitate; in an instant, teenage midfielder, Nabella Fitri, had put a low shot past the despairing GDT custodian, Zubaidah Harman, to make it 1-1.
Tampines needed more thrust up front, or so their coach Ratna Suffian must have reasoned, as he introduced his punchy striker, Syafiqah Mutalib, off the bench, six minutes before the break. The player had demonstrated her predatory prowess in earlier games, being blessed with a lethal left foot and energy to burn, when one-on-one with opposition defenders.
Within minutes the imposing striker had seen a shot of hers cleared off the line, direct from her own inswinging corner and increased Tampines’ team pressure had also produced a fierce free-kick from captain, Nadirah Farid, that was blocked on the goal-line.
This increased intensity augured well for the second-half, with early lethargy clearly now shaken off and a more determined mind-set taken into the remaining half of the game. So it proved, with the jubilant Syafiqah making good the threat, with a superb volley, just two minutes after the resumption, from 25 yards out, following a pinpoint cross from the right.
The goal was a huge fillip to the players who then, having taken a deserved 2-1 lead, went on to dominate the game.
Two minutes later Tampines scored a third, a beautiful through ball from Adelia sending the team’s other powerful striker, Shahidah Sidek, through to face the keeper and her lofted shot into the roof of the net gave a helpless Zubaidah no chance.
Tampines should really have put the game well beyond the reach of a plucky GDT, long before Syafiqah finally wrapped it all up with her second goal in the 90th minute for a 4-1 result.
The substitute striker accepted a nice ball from deep by midfield dynamo, Noriko Farahsyazwani, before executing a typically emphatic finish. Syafiqah could well have had two more goals to her name, before she celebrated her brace with a characteristic cartwheel, having been denied by a brave effort from the GDT keeper in the 50th and then slicing another shot wide, when perfectly placed, due to a languid swivel, with the goal at her mercy. The striker admonished herself for her hurried attempt, which could have put her on the way to a well-earned hat-trick.
Strikers aside, it was a far better all-round team performance by Tampines, after their very moderate start. Strong midfield work-rates and defensive vigilance were key components of this second win on the trot for the rapidly-improving team, who will need to cool their heels for two weeks now, with a bye next weekend, before fully testing themselves against the formidable Home United at Serangoon Stadium.