Jamil Ali grabbed the only goal of the game to settle a tense Eastern derby as defending Champions Tampines Rovers strengthen their position at the of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table.
The diminutive forward pounced, capitalizing on a rare mistake by Geylang International’s custodian Takuma Ito two minutes after the hour mark to settle the action packed affair.
It was all Geylang International in the opening minutes and it only took 27 seconds for the visitors to create the opening chance of the game. Yasir Hanapi did well to get down the right flank, before sending in a low drive only for Seiji Kaneko to turn it away for a corner. Had there been any green/white shirts inside the 18-yard box, it would be a huge blow to the hosts.
Geylang had been unbeaten in their last four fixtures, and they demonstrated that they’ve turned the corner after a poor start to the season. On fourth minute, Khairulnizam Jumahat fired a shot just wide from 20 yards before Taufiq Ghani forced Sasa Dreven into a fine stop. Four minutes later, the impressive Wahyudi Wahid fired just over the bar from inside the danger area after being set up by Yasir.
Credit has to be given to the Stags, for keeping their composure as Geylang had the intention of pressing them in their own half, and seemed to be hoping for them to commit a mistake that will lead to an early goal. Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic and Seiji Kaneko stood tall, and defended stoutly.
Tampines first opening came after eight minutes of play and Jamil Ali could only divert Imran Sahib’s cross from the right flank over the bar. Five minutes later, 42-year old Aleksandar Duric squandered the best chance Tampines had early on in the evening as he sent his shot straight at Takuma Ito. It was a three-prong attack (with Sead Hadzibulic and also Jamil Ali) adopted by Nenad Bacina and in some ways, it worked to perfection.
Hadzibulic’s header off Shaiful Esah’s cross from the left went straight to Ito after quarter of an hour gone, and Ito was again at his best to deny Hadzibulic two minutes later. Jamil, who was full or running and lively in the opening minutes sent in a low cross for his strike partner but Ito pulled off a magnificent reflex save to deny the number 10.
25 minutes into the game, Firdaus Kasman sent a beautifully struck effort just over the bar, with Ito already well beaten and the Stags continued to press. Despite the pace of the game dropping significantly after the half hour mark, the game was not lacking in action at all.
Geylang had the ball in the net seven minutes before the break, but Yasir’s effort was ruled out for an offside infringement – rightly so. Jozef Kaplan curled a shot goal wards two minutes later, but his effort couldn’t find the intended target.
Both teams went into the break deadlocked at 0-0 and Geylang had goalkeeper Takuma Ito to thank for keeping the score line as it is when they returned. Five minutes into the second period, Ito acrobatically denied Hadzibulic whose bullet header seemed destined for goal.
The miss of the game came two minutes before the hour mark and it was Tampines who were let off. Jozef Kaplan robbed Kaneko off the ball just outside the danger area but he could only fire his shot straight at Dreven, who was never in doubt in conceding any goal on the evening.
Yasir Hanapi had the ball in the net again on 60th minute, but again, his effort was chalked off for yet another offside infringement. Geylang were punished for not taking their chances two minutes later as a rare mistake on the night by Ito allowed Tampines to take the lead. Ito fumbled an effort off Kaneko and the rebound fell to Jamil who made no mistake from close range to grab the only goal of the game.
Geylang continued to press for an equalizer but Tampines’ set the pace of the game with the silky one-touch football frustrating the visitors for the remainder of the game. Imran Sahib thought that he had doubled the Stags’ lead, but his 84th minute goal was also chalked off by the match official due to another offside infringement – the third in this tense encounter.
Jamil had the opportunity to wrap things up, in the dying minutes of the game, but he was denied by the upright. The number 17 left three defenders for dead, before coming to a one-to-one situation with Ito, and while his effort beat Ito, the upright denied Jamil his double for the night.
Head Coach Nenad Bacina was pleased with his charges and praised every single one of his players who played their part in getting the team back onto winning ways.
“It is not easy to play against Geylang (International) as you can see. They have improved a lot since the opening game of the season which we beat them 5-0. Geylang is a good side, so it was not easy for us tonight” Bacina said.
“I would like to congratulate my players for the win. They worked very hard for it and this is the second game in the space of eight days with the third one coming up on Sunday,” he added
Bacina also hailed his side for their ability to turn pressure into points needed to extend their lead at the top of the table.
“For us, there is pressure for us to win. Everyone expects us to win such matches. The approach taken by the players is very pleasing to me and they put in the extra effort in tonight’s match,
“Five days ago, we were playing Tanjong Pagar (lost 1-0). During that game, we lost and we were down. But now with this, we are up there again. We have another tough game against Hougang (United) this Sunday so we need to recover well and do our best for that game,” he added
Tampines Rovers’ lead at the top of the table stands at two points, but the Stags have played one game lesser than their nearest rival, Albirex Niigata (S).
The rescheduled game between Tampines Rovers and Hougang United will take place on 12 May 2013, at the Clementi Stadium. Kick off is at 730pm. Fans who were at Clementi when this fixture was postponed due to bad weather conditions are advised to bring along your ticket stubs for re-entry to this game on Sunday.