Tough Times for Tampines’ Women

By Greenrover

They faced perhaps their most formidable opponents of the season, Home United, at Queenstown Stadium on Saturday night, their first outing after a two -week break.

A lack of match-fitness was to prove costly, as Tampines Rovers needed to bring on four of their seven substitutes long before half-time and the other three not too far into the second-half. By the end the team had been beaten 4-0, which can be taken as a fair outcome in the circumstances, after a titanic struggle to deal with the only-once-beaten Home United.

Finding themselves a goal down early on and behind 2-0 within half-an-hour it was commendable that the plucky women’s team could hold out Home United until as late as the 78th minute, only conceding a fourth goal in stoppage-time.

Towards the end several players had to leave the field for treatment before returning to do battle, courageously fighting on until the very end. The lush grass of the Queenstown Stadium pitch has found out more seasoned players and Home United needed to replace many of their players as well.

It wasn’t a one-sided game by any means, though shots on goal were few and far between. To their credit the Tampines’ players restricted their Home United opponents from getting in many shots from close-range, thanks to industrious defending and solid teamwork. The players should be proud of being competitive for the entire 90 minutes and can look forward to a return to winning ways in one of their few remaining assignments.

Bravo the brave women of Tampines Rovers!

Juergen Raab: It Was A Bad Surprise For Me

We were represented by head coach Juergen Raab in the post-match press conference after our final AFC Cup group stage game against Ceres-Negros in the AFC Cup on 3rd May 2017. Ceres were represented by head coach Risto Vidaković, and man of the match Bienvenido Marañón.

Hear What Both Teams Had To Say:

AFC Cup Dream Over

By Greenrover

Tampines Rovers’ coach, Juergen Raab, told the media at Wednesday night’s post-match press-conference that he had received ‘a bad surprise’ when his players produced what he described as a nervous start to their game against Ceres Negros FC at Jalan Besar Stadium, a game both teams had to win if either were to advance beyond the Group Stage of the AFC Cup in 2017.

The equation was simple: a win would guarantee Ceres top spot, irrespective of the result in Vietnam of the game played simultaneously between Hanoi FC and Felda. A win for Tampines would propel them to the top of the group, but only if Felda could win in Hanoi.

As it happened Hanoi FC won comfortably, but that outcome wasn’t to become at all clear until long after the Stags had seen their hopes shattered by conceding twice in the opening 23 minutes.

While Tampines had begun disastrously in their first match against Ceres in the Philippines, conceding within a mere 35 seconds, here it took the visitors ten times as long to find the net; but even allowing their opponents to score first within six minutes, was certainly enough set the Stags right back on their heels.

Coach Juergen clearly felt that he needed to do some soul-searching, as he had expected his side to put up a much better performance than this one and he was baffled by their tentative approach and the subsequent mistakes that led to them going two goals down.

To compound matters, key left-sided Singapore international, Shakir Hamzah, was shown a red card for an ill-judged tackle after only 28 minutes, which also saw the player coming off second-best, before being stretchered away with what could well be a serious injury.

Already under-strength, Tampines now down to ten men needed to chase the game and the coach had little alternative than to sacrifice one outright attacking player to bring on a more defensive-minded one to fill Shakir’s place.

Juergen admitted that he felt bad about having to take off striker Ivan Dzoni, to allow Ismadi Mukhtar to take over on the flank, with options from the bench limited by a lack of fully-fit replacements, defender Madhu Mohana and striker Khairul Amri both unable to contribute until much later in the game.

As it happened, the ever-dependable Yasir Hanapi was able to find the net for the Stags after 26 minutes, seizing on some hesitation 30 yards out and going through to score with a brilliant solo effort.

At 2-1 down there was still hope, though slim, it has to be said, with only ten players out on the field to do battle against a very skilful Ceres outfit.

But hopes were dashed further, when substitute Ismadi was adjudged to have handled inside the area, after Ceres’ left-winger, Iain Ramsay, had sent over a low cross, destined for waiting team-mates in the six-yard box.

That meant a first-half stoppage-time penalty for Ceres to convert and Fernando Rodriguez made no mistake, to have his side ahead 3-1 at the break.

Khairul Amri has scored off the bench a number of times in recent weeks, though far from reaching peak match-fitness, but coach Juergen, faced with a two-goal deficit, could delay the introduction of his talismanic striker no longer and brought him on in the 54th minute for midfielder Son Yongchan.

Amri definitely posed an immediate threat and kept the Philippines defenders busy, as soon as he came on, earning his side a penalty in the 60th minute, after being tripped just inside the area.

The spot-kick was converted very efficiently by Yasir, to throw the Stags a second lifeline at 3-2 down, with half an hour to play.

Ceres’ coach, Risto Vidakovic, told the media that he could sense the danger when the score became 3-2 and was anxious for his players to restore their two-goal advantage.

They were able to do just that as a tiring Tampines, with few opportunities going forward, due to their manpower shortage, conceded again in the 66th.

That fourth goal came from the head of Kota Kawase, following a corner on the right by Kevin Ingreso, the ball arriving in a packed penalty area, but with the Ceres player managing to get there first to make it 4-2. Game over, to all intents and purposes.

A far-from-fit Madhu Mohana came on for the last 20 minutes for Ismadi, but chances of another comeback by that stage appeared to be virtually zero.

The damage had been done early in the first-half and coach Juergen bewailed the mistakes that led to both of those goals, scored in the 6th and 23rd by Bienvenido Maraa On.

The first was an easy header, after a cross from the right, where the winger had been allowed to get to the byline with the minimum of difficulty and the second when a mix-up allowed Rodriguez to go through to face Stags’ keeper Izwan Mahbud and calmly square the ball to Bienvenido to slot into an empty net.

Juergen Raab could offer no explanation for his team’s early capitulation.

“I am not sure, maybe I am guilty (rather than the players) and (I) said the wrong things during the preparations?”

“I can’t understand the number of mistakes my players made, but I must say that we were not good enough to beat Ceres tonight,” he concluded.

The Stags may lock horns with Ceres again, as their coach mentioned when leaving the room that his team would be back soon to compete in the Singapore Cup again this season, following strong showings over recent years by Ceres in this time-honoured competition.

Obviously much will depend on the draw, which we later learned will be made as soon as next week, with the two-legged opening round due for completion by the end of the month.

No matter who Tampines draw in the Singapore Cup, however, they’ll be more concerned about important S.League matches and they could not have asked for a tougher assignment to resume their domestic programme than a match against Home United at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday 12th May.

Khairul Amri will be suspended for that game and there are doubts about the fitness of goalkeeper, Izwan Mahbud, who was indisposed towards the end of the AFC Cup encounter, but could not be replaced, due to the Stags having already used their full quota of substitutes at that late stage.

The injury to Shakir Hamzah adds further to coach Juergen’s woes and it will still be a while before almost forgotten striker, Fazrul Nawaz, is ready to resume.

Hopefully the soul-searching will result in the team coming out against the Protectors with more confidence and resolve than they mustered against Ceres, as points against their fierce rivals are essential if Tampines is to stay in touch with the leading bunch of teams, led by unbeaten Albirex Niigata (S) and Home United.

Noh Alam Shah: Tampines Rovers, Make Singapore Football Proud Again

Noh Alam Shah: 11 years with Tampines Rovers – 3 S.League titles, 231 appearances, and 104 goals.

Alam Shah was regarded as one of the best forwards in Southeast Asia (SEA). He is the last player to score a bicycle kick at the old National Stadium, which was during Singapore’s AFF Championship match where we walked out 11-0 winners.

He became the first player to score a 100 goals for our club, and ended his career in true fashion by scoring a hat trick, with one of the goals being a screamer from 25-yards out in the last minute of regulation time.

We interviewed Alam Shah and asked him about his days with Tampines Rovers. Not only that, ahead of our AFC Cup game tonight against Ceres-Negros, a must win game for us, Alam Shah gave advice to our players, and also had a few words for the club.

Watch Alam Shah’s Interview:

Dzoni: We Are Mentally Prepared

The pre-match press conference for our final AFC Cup group stage game against Ceres-Negros was held on 2nd May at Holiday Inn. We were represented by Head Coach, Juergen Raab, and player, Ivan Dzoni. Ceres-Negros were represented by Head Coach, Risto Vidaković, and player Martin Steuble.

Both teams give a brief introduction before the opening of questions to the floor

Risto: It’s a good pleasure to see you again and I hope everything is going well. I hope that it will be a big game. Thank you.

Martin: Hello everybody. Thanks for having us and it’s nice to be back in Singapore. We are preparing for the game and we are ready for tomorrow.

Juergen: I think the situation is very clear, that if Ceres win [this game] they are the winners from the group. Our situation is if we win, maybe we have a small chance to go to the next stage, but we are dependent on the result in Hanoi. But it’s clear that we want to win and we will see what happens.

Ivan: Hello everyone. Coach said most of the things. Tomorrow if we win, we have at least some chance to qualify for the next round. So, we will give our best to win this game.

Q1: Will you be approaching this game differently considering the number of injured players that we have?
Juergen: The situation is now a little bit better because now Madhu is back in training and Amri is also on a good way, so there are not so many players now that aren’t available. We are now in a comfortable situation with our last wins. We have a good position in the table, and with the away victory in Felda we have the chance with a win against Ceres to have nine points but that would not be enough, maybe we are depending on other team. But, we can say if we finish in the second place that we have played a good competition in this AFC Cup in this group.

Q2: What about the update on your squad Risto?
Risto: Ah, the situation is clear. So I think if we win it depends on ourselves so we have to win to qualify for the next round, so there is no other option. If we lose, we’re out. So we will fight for that and they know that Tampines will also do the same so I expect a tough game so we will see what happens.

Q3: You just beat Hanoi 6-2. Are you going to approach this game against Tampines differently, or will you approach it the same?
Risto: It’s a different game. We played Hanoi at home, now we are away. So, it’s a different game, different preparation, different opponent. I think both teams are motivated. It will be a tough game and I expect that my team will give everything and the result, you never know. Anything can happen.

Q4: The spirits are high now with our current form. How different are the spirits now compared to when you first took over in February?
Juergen: It’s clear. If you start as a new coach with a team, it needs time to come together, to understand what the coach wants. How is the work in the team and they are to understand how to play and how should be the style. Now, I think especially after the match against Warriors, we have lost and with a very bad attitude in the first half. Especially that we can’t continue in this way and after this came the turnaround with the match against Hanoi and now we have four matches, unbeaten, or I think five matches unbeaten. Now we want to use this chance with a win. We have the possibility to go to the next round and we want to always confirm that we have a good team, that we on a good way and we are possible to beat this strong team from Ceres.

Q5: Ivan, this is your first press conference with Tampines. How are you feeling?
Ivan: Mhmm, actually I’m feeling okay. Its my first time but…

Q6: From a player’s point of view, what do you think went wrong when we faced Ceres in the Philippines?
Ivan: Well, we conceded that goal at the 35th second or so, it was very hard. When you start and you get that goal immediately, it’s hard to go back into the game. After that also, two strange shots, our defenders, they had some really strange reaction at the second goal. So, after that, 3-0 in the first half, it’s very hard to go back. But this time, I think it will maybe go a different way.

Q7: Tomorrow is a chance for Son to redeem himself after what happened in the Philippines. How is he doing ahead of tomorrow, and have you individually prepared him?
Juergen: No, not individually. I have spoken with him after the match in Ceres. He played his own match in this game and he was not playing with discipline. He was over-motivated and now he must come back and show what he can do. But, there is no special things to speak with him. If he is focused on his match and what he must do, and not to show Ceres what he can make for a specialist things, then he is strong and I hope he will to do tomorrow. Especially all the other players because the memories from this match are not so nice.

Q8: Are there any players in particular from Ceres that will pose a danger to us?
Juergen: If you score so many goals, I think there are many players that are dangerous for us. We must be very careful. The team is strong in the offence, and we be a little bit more careful, and not that they can score after 35 seconds. That’s too early. I hope we can prevent this. We want play active style and hope that we have a little bit more match luck tomorrow.

Q9: What about you Risto? Any Tampines players you are looking out for?
Risto: I don’t like to talk about individuality. So, I think they have a good team. For me, the result in the first game is, I think, too much goals because we saw that they have a strong team and had opportunities during the game. So I think it’s maybe like in our second game against Hanoi we scored also six goals but the game was over after 3-1 because they played with one player less. So it’s not a really realistic result about what can happen because it was 2-1, and after we scored in the second half and they get a red card the game was over. So it’s not easy to analyse the game when a team is playing with one player less, it’s different. So, the same happened against Tampines. In the first half it was 3-0 and I think too high, the result was too high. So it’s not easy to comeback for any team. So, I think tomorrow is a different game. A new game so we have to start from zero. We have to be 100% in the match. We have to give all we have. We have to fight for the result because it depends on us. So we have to give it everything we have for tomorrow’s game and we want to go to the next round.

Q10: Martin, which player gave you the most difficulty in the Philippines?
Martin: Like they mentioned, the game in Bacolod was a bit special. We led very early 3-0, so I know how it is as a player if you’re down 3-0 in the first half. It’s hard to stay focused, keep performing and so I think our team pretty much controlled the game and every single player also positioned each to each. But I think tomorrow is going to be a different situation, different stadium. I think Tampines is very strong at home and they will be hard to beat. It’s a small field, so we’re not looking out on any particular player, just the whole team. It’s going to be hard to beat, and we hope we find a way to beat Tampines.

Q11: You were here last year as well to play us in the RHB Singapore Cup. What do you think is the biggest difference between our squad last year, and our squad this year?
Martin: I think last year you had bigger names, with Pennant, the striker Mehmet and the winger Jordan. So, pretty much the team was relying on these players. So maybe now it is more collective play in Tampines. So the way they crucify on all the shoulders. But nonetheless, it’s still a hard team to beat, and we’re top of the table right now but the job isn’t done yet. We still have to win that last game, and that’s what we’re totally focused on.

Q12: Ivan, you’ve been more active in recent games and scored a very important goal in Brunei that gave us all three points. What’s changed you?
Ivan: Actually those kind of goals, you just find some little space and shoot. So the ball went in, and it’s very nice in the third minute to have a lead. After that, our team effort was really good, so we kept that one goal difference and won the game.

Q13: It’s a must win game for us tomorrow for us to still have the chance to qualify to the next round. How are you handling the pressure?
Ivan: We’re very, very calm for tomorrow because it’s like, nobody’s expecting for us to qualify. But we have chances, so we need to watch also the other game where Felda needs to beat Hanoi. We will give our best tomorrow to win the match, so we have chance to go to the next round.

Q14: Are you physically and mentally prepared?
Ivan: Yeah, of course. Like the others.

Q15: Juergen, what’s the update on Izwan?
Juergen: I think now he sees more clearly. The eyes are not so small anymore like Frankenstein in the film. I think he is ready for the match tomorrow, but we want to wait for the session in the evening and we will see. But I’m very optimistic that he is available for tomorrow.

Q16: Madhu is back in training from his injury against Hanoi. Is there any chance we will see him playing tomorrow night?
Madhu: It’s normally not the time to speak about the line-up, but he came back from a longer injury and you know, I’m not afraid to bring players immediately after they come back. So he needs a little bit more time in training. He is in the squad, but I don’t think that he will be starting.

Q17: Risto, given that you are two points ahead going into this game, the fact that Tampines have to attack, do you see that as you already know the game plan of Tampines? How will that approach the way, or style, you approach the game?
Risto: They have to attack, but we have to attack also because we need to win if we want to qualify. I think it’s not dependent on them. Like I said before, if my players give 100%, we can do something tomorrow.

Q18: How important is it for Philippine football, now that the Philippine Pro League is coming up, to make it to the knockout stage in the AFC Cup?
Risto: It’s also very important, because we have another Philippine team also that have possibilities to qualify. So I think it may be the first time that the Philippines has two teams in the second round.

Q19: Juergen, it’s been quite an interesting time for you to come and set-up, and be involved in Singapore football. How do you see the team progressing under your guidance?
Juergen: Yes, I see the development from the team, and also the individual players. It’s normal, we only had two and a half weeks for our preparation before our first match against Felda. That’s nothing in football, and that’s why it’s clear that we have had ups and downs. Now we are in a flow where I can say we are more stable in all matches, and that is a good sign, but we must continue and also improve. We are not at the end, not at our limit, but now the team shows something that I want to see, and I’m very optimistic that we can improve with the succession of the season.

Q20: Now that Home United have qualified for the knockout stage, do you see that as kind of a pressure to also make it to the next round?
Juergen: They have qualified for the second round, that is nice for Singapore football. I must say that I enjoy how Home United play football, that’s very nice, that’s a good style. We want to do the same, if we can do it, but we are depending on Hanoi. It’s not like Home United, they could reach the second round with their last win. We must look to Hanoi, and at first, at first, we have to win. That is the most difficult thing. Then, we can have a look to Hanoi. So those are two things that sometimes in football very much.

Q21: Obviously you’ve played Ceres in the Philippines. How much of a psychological barrier have you broken with the players, like to know that you won’t suffer that kind of a defeat again?
Juergen: You will wonder. I have only spoken with the team after the match. Immediately we have spoken. What could happen? And if you’re long in football, and you’ve gone through such things, you know could happen in football. And Risto mentioned this, an unbelievable shot after 35 seconds, unbelievable. Then, a disaster of mistakes from the goalkeeper, from the defenders. This second goal, it wasn’t a chance, it was present from us for Ceres. And then the third goal was the same, unbelievable shot. Three shots, and its 3-0. Do you know what happened in the mind of the players? That’s very difficult. Then the team from Risto came in the flow, and then sometimes, you can do what you want but all is wrong. And that’s the match in Ceres. From 100 matches, you play 99, yet only one will finish like this. So, we have to look forward, and change something, and now we are in another position, and its normal. We want to show that we can do it better.

Q22: Finally, how confident are you to get the three points tomorrow?
Juergen: I’m always confident. If I wasn’t confident, then I wouldn’t be able to prepare the team. You say, “Hey, we are able to beat Ceres.”, that is what you must always bring in a football match, confidence. Especially the style in the last matches, the stability from the performances, then I think we are able to do this. But it will be a very hard match because Ceres has the quality to beat us, and we must look that we, I mentioned this, do not have an early goal down against this team.

Stags Tame Tigers

By Greenrover

A beaming Tampines Rovers’ Prime League coach, Dilwant Singh, greeted his players after his young charges had emerged with a polished 2-0 win over a battling Balestier Khalsa at Jurong West Stadium on Sunday evening.

Unfazed by a one-hour-long interruption, due to mild storm activity in the vicinity, midway through the second-half, Tampines picked up where they’d left off around 6.20pm, having taken a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second half.

Limbering-up continually throughout the untimely disruption, during which time little or no rain fell whatsoever, Tampines were more than ready for the resumption, once it came.

Dilwant Singh didn’t need to say too much after the final-whistle, as his smile said it all, a brief “they did well”, a more than favourable verdict on a job outcome that clearly pleased the veteran coach.

Tampines survived some torrid moments late in the game from a Balestier side that had been reluctant to commit players forward in earnest until they’d conceded a second goal in the 77th minute.

That goal had come for Tampines after the Tigers had looked particularly combative, though lacking any incisive touch near their opponents’ goal. Balestier had focussed fully on defence in the first-half and managed to hold the home side to 0-0 at the break.

Storm activity was already looking likely when the second-half began, so an opening goal, in the 49th minute, was very welcome as it broke the firm grip Balestier’s defence had held throughout the first-half.

Suddenly, for some reason, Balestier’s tight rearguard found itself with only three defenders facing two Stags’ attackers and with as many as seven men barring their path to goal during the earlier parts of the game, this relative luxury enabled Tampines to hit the front.

A ball was played out to Haiqal Sulaiman on the right by Diego Silvas; Syed Haziq then swiftly arrived at the far-post to send a sweetly-struck volley hurtling into the top-left corner of the net.

It was a goal of some class.

Further good chances fell the way of the Stags, with Faizal Raffi hitting the crossbar in the 60th and Diego heading over the bar from the crashing rebound.

Moments before referee, W. Ravisanthiran brought the players off for safety reasons, Balestier substitute, Majeed Jamil, headed inches over from a free-kick awarded to his side, out wide on the left, much to the relief of the Tampines’ supporters.

Upon the game’s resumption Balestier began brightly, winning several free-kicks and corners, but just as they began to look on the verge of drawing level, Syed Haziq showed his trickery again, wide on the left, outfoxing his wing-back opponent, before getting to the by-line and delivering a perfect cross.

The ball was met at the far-post with conviction by Diego, whose crisp header sailed over the head of downcast Tigers’ keeper, Syahrul Nizam.

At 2-0 down Balestier had little choice than to attack over the remaining quarter of an hour, which they did with gusto. Tampines kept up their solid work-rate to preserve their hard-earned two-goal lead. Balestier might well have scored at least once, but they twice struck the side-netting, as Ahmad Salihin and substitute, Azrin Junaidi, failed to capitalise on sound lead-up work by their team-mates in the 78th and 80th minutes respectively.

Three minutes into stoppage-time Tampines maintained their exemplary vigilance by clearing yet another Tigers’ shot off the goal-line. The win, their third of the season and their second in a row, demonstrates the Prime League team’s steady improvement in recent weeks.

They are in action again next Sunday when they will meet NFA Under-17s at Woodlands Stadium at 5pm.

Sea Wolves Wish Us The Best Versus Ceres

Our AFC Cup Squad player Raspreet Sandhu was at Sonoma State University Athletics between 2011 and 2015. Their squad are currently in spring training. The season starts in August and finishes with playoffs in December. During the training, the players must maintain their grades in school.

Our scarf has made it all the way to America, and we see the Sea Wolves’ coach, Marcus Ziemer, proudly holding it up in honour of his former, and our current, player Raspreet.

Raspreet’s former team wishes us all the best for our final AFC Cup group stage game against Ceres next Wednesday, 3rd May, at Jalan Besar Stadium. Come down and support our Stags as it’s going to be an exciting game indeed. Why? If we beat Ceres, and Felda beats Hanoi, we will top our group and qualify for the next round.