Tampines Edge Warriors For Third Victory On The Trot
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Tampines Rovers kept up the pressure on Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League leaders Albirex Niigata (S) after a narrow 1-0 victory over Warriors FC at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Thursday night, thanks to Shahdan Sulaiman’s strike seven minutes from time.
Shahdan netted the game’s only goal from the spot as the Stags closed the gap at the top to four points albeit having played a game more.
Warriors made two changes from their 2-0 win over Geylang International in their last match, with Zainol Gulam and Zulfadli Zainal coming in for Hyrulnizam Juma’at and Ho Wai Loon respectively.
The visitors meanwhile had Hafiz Sujad and Fazrul Nawaz on the bench while Ivan Dzoni - who netted against Balestier Khalsa the last time out - missed out completely with youngster Diego Silvas tasked to lead the line.
It was a cagey affair in the first-half with chances few and far between as Warriors had the first chance of note after six minutes.
However, Fadhil Noh’s ambitious effort was easy for Tampines third-choice goalkeeper Haikal Hasnol.
Tampines created their first real chance of the game shortly after the half-hour mark when Imran Sahib poked one towards goal but Zainol Gulam did well to push it away for a corner.
Shahdan Sulaiman then tried one from the left in the 33rd minute but the ball flew out to safety instead.
That proved to be the final noteworthy action of the half as the teams went into the break with nothing between them.
The hosts were presented with another opportunity to open the scoring minutes after the break but Fadhil’s long-range attempt sailed harmlessly wide.
Baihakki Khaizan could have put Warriors ahead in the 51st minute after rising highest to meet Hafiz Nor’s corner but saw his header come off the bar and go out to safety.
The nine-time league champions got another break six minutes later when Fadhil switched play to Fazli Jaffar on the left but the winger fired one straight at Haikal.
Tampines forward Fazrul Nawaz was then brought on with 25 minutes remaining as the Stags sought for added firepower upfront.
Still, the Jurong West-based side could not find a breakthrough as Hafiz Sujad then replaced Ryutaro Megumi in the 73rd minute.
However, the deadlock was finally broken in the 83rd minute when Shahdan made no mistake from 12 yards after Fazrul was bundled over by Zulfadli Zainal in the box.
Warriors substitute Jordan Webb could have rescued a point for his team in the 88th minute but headed narrowly wide as the Stags hung on for an important victory in their title bid.
Warriors FC Head Coach Razif Onn: “We played very badly, especially in the first-half. Tampines were camped in our half for most parts and we were put under a lot of pressure.
“But we managed to contain them in the second-half and got some good attacking football. We just have got no striker to finish off the chances we created. We had to reply on Fadhil Noh and Shahril Ishak, but the latter is not an out-and-out striker so I needed the wingers to cut in and contribute.
“We were hoping for a point but it was not to be, we have to improve on our offensive side of the game.”
Tampines Rovers Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “It was the best match to match our style of football. We were patient with our football and it was nice to see that we were rewarded with the goal as we showed good nerves to win the game.
“We gave Warriors no chance at all today; but that said, Warriors are also physically strong and we had to be alert. We created chances in dangerous positions but the final pass was sometimes not good enough.
“It was an important win because now the other teams like Home United and Albirex have to win and I’m confident of closing the gap.”
Warriors FC: Zainol Gulam (GK), Emmeric Ong, Baihakki Khaizan, Kento Fukuda, Zulfadli Zainal, Syaqir Sulaiman, Shaiful Esah (C), Hafiz Nor, Shahril Ishak, Fazli Jaffar, Fadhil Noh (Jordan Webb 66’) Tampines Rovers:
Haikal Hasnol (GK), Fazli Ayob, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Daniel Bennett, Shakir Hamzah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Son Yong Chan, Imran Sahib (Jamil Ali 75’), Ryutaro Megumi (Hafiz Sujad 73’), Diego Silvas (Fazrul Nawaz 65’)