Tampines Rovers 1 Gligor Gligorov 91’
Brunei DPMM 0
Both these sides may have cancelled out each other in a thrilling 2-2 draw earlier on this season at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Brunei, but it was Tampines who edged out DPMM on home soil, as they moved to second place in the table, three points behind their opponents.
The visitors started stronger, with Sasa Dreven having to turn a volley from Ivan Jerkovic past the post after only a minute had eclipsed.
The Stags responded as Jamil Ali clipped a fine cross with the outside of his boot from the left, only for skipper Aleksandar Duric to fluff his lines by missing his kick at the far post.
Adi Said lashed a shot wildly over the bar after cutting in from the left, before Imran Sahib saw his fierce effort from 25 yards pushed way by Wardun Yussof, as the game swung from one end to the other.
Duric came close to opening the scoring when he turned neatly inside the box to fire in a low shot which was well saved by Wardun.
Adi Said then saw his header beat Sasa Dreven but not the post after he got his head to a beautiful cross from Shahrazen Said, as both teams went into the break level after an evenly-matched half.
The second half, in contrast, saw much less excitement.
Just past the hour-mark, new Tampines signing directed a header off a freekick straight at the goalkeeper, who looked as if he didn’t know too much about the block as the ball hit him fortuitously on the legs before he had time to react.
It looked as if the Stags would have nothing to show for all their possession, but they stole all three points two minutes from time.
Gligor Gligorov saw his low strike from just inside the penalty area turned away brilliantly by Wardun, but the alert Duric picked up the rebound when everyone else thought the ball was going to roll out before crossing for the ex-Macedonian international to stoop low and head home to steal all three points for the home side.
It was a predictably close affair between two good sides and that was particularly exemplified in the first half, when both teams had decent opportunities to score. DPMM will particularly rue the miss by Adi Said which hit the post just before half-time, as Tampines would go on to dominate the second half.
It was obvious that the visitors were set up to play on the counter-attack in the second half, with the pace of Shahrazen Said and Basiru Osman upfront to do just that. The Stags struggled to break down their opponents despite having more of the ball, but the midfield duo of Ahmad Latiff and Gligorov started to exert their influence more as the game wore on.
Ismadi Mukhtar impressed down the left with his hard running and excellent tracking back, while new signing Sead Hadzibulic battled manfully in attack. Duric might not have had much luck in front of goal, but he showed excellent awareness to create the assist for Gligorov’s goal, which secured a deserved win for Tampines.
Both coaches held opposing views as to whether the result was merited when they spoke to journalists after the game.
Tampines coach Steven Tan termed it his side’s “sweetest win of the season yet” and that this victory would help give them the belief that they can catch up in the league, saying:
“I think DPMM are one of the toughest teams to play; the way they set up stall, they were playing on the counter attack. Credit to my guys, (because) they kept plugging away. I told them before the game that one goal would separate the teams.
“Sead (Hadzibulic) did very well, he was winning all the balls and he will help to take the load off Aleks (Duric) by being the linkman… given time, he will be okay.
“In terms of possession and everything, the boys deserved the three points. “
Vjeran Simunic, meanwhile, believed his side were the better team.
“I am very happy we played with 8 Bruneians… (the players) are very upset now because they know they played better. Our target upon coming back after 29 months (out) was to play good football, and we did that.”
Brunei DPMM remain top of the league on 29 points, with Tampines three points behind, although third-placed Home have a game in hand with 24 points.
Tampines: Sasa Dreven, Anaz Hadee, Mustafic Fahrudin, Benoit Croissant, Jamil Ali (Ahmed Fahmie 70’), Gligor Gligorov, Imran Sahib, Ismadi Mukhtar, Sead Hadzibulic (Ali Hudzaifi 84’), Ahmad Latiff, Aleksandar Duric (C) (Hairulnazri Hanafi 92’).Unused subs: Hafez Mawasi, Jufri Taha, Syafiq Suraj, Sazali Salleh.
DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Sairol Sahari, Tales dos Santos, Pg Sallehuddin Damit (Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman 65’), Helmi Zambin, Ivan Jerkovic, Rosmin Kamis(C), Azwan Salleh, Basiru Osman, Adi Said (Awangku Fakharazzi 81’), Shahrazen Said. Unused subs: Azman Ilham, Hanafizal Helman, Suhaime Yusoff, Amalul Ariffin Shah, Abu Bakar Mahari.
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