Tanjong Pagar 1 Souchon 18’
Tanjong Pagar overcame the loss of Jonathan Xu to a red card in the second half to hang on for a third successive 1-0 victory, with a sublime strike from Serge Souchon giving them all three points at Woodlands Wellington.
The game got off to a slow start, with Woodlands striker Hussein Akil having the first shot of note as his powerful snap-shot from the edge of the box flew narrowly over the bar in the 12th minute.
The visitors hit back as Takaya Kawanabe flashed a low shot which was deflected past the post, and they went ahead minutes later through a stunning effort from midfielder Serge Souchon.
Receiving a pass near the right touchline, the Frenchman held off Duncan Elias before turning to drive into the area and unleashing a curling left-footed strike into the top left corner to register his first goal for the club in some style.
Unfortunately, the rest of the half was a tepid affair, as the scoreline stayed the same until half-time.
The Jaguars pushed for a second goal as both teams came out after the break, with Takaya blasting a shot into the side netting and Azhar Ahmad forcing a good save from Ahmadulhaq, although they were lucky not to concede when Moon Soon Ho scooped over from close range after Shamsurin Rahman had pulled the ball back from the right.
Right-back Jonathan Xu then received his second yellow card of the night after he brought down Goh Swee Swee on the hour mark, and that was the cue for Woodlands to start pouring men forward in search of an equaliser.
Fajar Sarib came to his side’s rescue as he palmed away a shot from Hussein, before Moon fired wide from a tight angle. Hussein then saw another effort blocked by Fajar, as Tanjong Pagar were pinned back in their own half.
Takaya glanced over a cross from Aliff Shafaein after Jang In Jun had picked out the winger with a glorious volleyed pass, but it was soon back to one-way traffic after that.
Goh Swee Swee curled his shot just past the near post, and Fajar had to be out quickly to smother at the feet of Moon after the striker had broken the offside trap.
The last chance for Woodlands came two minutes into injury time, but players and staff alike could only watch on in agony and disbelief as captain Daniel Hammond’s low shot hit the inside of the post and bounced out, as Tanjong Pagar held on for the victory.
Overall, it was a scrappy game, with few chances for either side until the last half-hour, when Woodlands piled on the pressure after Jonathan was sent off.
Tanjong Pagar sat very deep after taking the lead, with Souchon almost operating as a wingback on the right at times while defending, while skipper Delwinder Singh and Jang dropped back to protect the back four. This made it hard for Hussein and Moon to find any sort of space, while the Woodlands midfield looked bereft of ideas to break down the Jaguars’ defence.
The speed of Takaya and Aliff meant that were always a danger on the counter-attack, even after they were reduced to ten men, although they were on the ropes in the last quarter of the match. Delwinder went to rightback and the loss of the defensive cover he had provided in midfield before that allowed Woodlands to start attacking more through the centre.
The Rams couldn’t take their chances though, and the determined Jaguars held on for the win in the end.
Tanjong Pagar coach Terry Pathmanathan was naturally pleased with his charges, saying that his side had exceeded his expectations.
“It was good to get our first away win. Today we had to work doubly hard with a man down, and it was a tough game as Woodlands really went all out to get the goal. We were quite fortunate that the shot hit the post, but credit to them, they never stopped working and I am extremely happy with their attitude and determination.
“I think overall the team did extremely well. We have excelled beyond expectations, I am quite happy with what we have done in the first round and we have to keep the momentum going.”
A downbeat Woodlands assistant Clement Teo admitted that the side’s run of ten games without a win was frustrating, but refused to blame it on bad luck.
“It is frustrating, but we still stand by what we do. It’s an off day; what more can I say? When we lose, we can say we didn’t have the luck, but that’s an easy excuse. We didn’t play well, especially in the first half.
“Strangely enough in crucial games like this, we just cannot manage to do, or to apply what we have done in training. We don’t have any ‘superstar’; we just have to work very hard. We should be back in the second round giving much better performances, as well as trying to move up the table.”
With this win, Tanjong Pagar move up to eighth in the table, while Woodlands are stuck in twelfth, above bottom side Geylang only by virtue of goal difference.
Woodlands: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Duncan Elias, Danniel Hammond (C), Fabien Lewis, K. Sathiaraj, Shamsurin Rahman, Armanizam Dolah (Han Yi Guang 84’), Guntur Djafril (Aloysius Yap 52’), Goh Swee Swee, Hussein Akil, Moon Soon Ho. Unused subs: Abdul Qadir, Edward Tan, Sidiq Abdullah, Danny Chew, Oswind Suriya.
Tanjong Pagar: Fajar Sarib, Jonathan Xu, Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Osman, Zahid Ahmad, Serge Souchon, Delwinder Singh (C), Jang In Jun, Azhar Ahmad (S. Vikneshwaran 56’), Aliff Shafaein, Takaya Kawanabe. Unused subs: Shamsudin Hashim, Sudhershen Hariram, Justin Khiang, Is Hafizuddin, Abdul Rahim, Irfan Ibrahim.
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