Tampines moved back to the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Tanjong Pagar at Queenstown last night. This game saw Tanjong Pagar’s mid-season signing, Gilbert Bayonne notching his first goal for the club since joining in June.
For the Jaguars, captain Delwinder Singh returned to the starting line-up and partnered Anthony Aymard just in front of the back-four which consisted of Jonathan Xu, Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Osman and Zahid Ahmad.
Tampines meanwhile, also made one change to their starting line-up from their last game against Woodlands with Fahrudin Mustafic replacing the suspended Anaz Hadee at the back. Fan favourite Noh Alam Shah was however left out of the squad due to ‘personal issues’, revealed Tampines’ head coach Steven Tan after the game.
Tan later clarified at the end of the day: “We knew about it quite a while ago but we did not know how long it was going to take.”
Tampines defender Benoit Croissant broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when he rose the highest at the far post to meet Gligor Gligorov’s corner with a firm header past Fajar Sarib. Jamil Ali almost added the second minutes later but could only poke a shot wide after a quick interchange of passes outside the area.
But it did not take long for the home side to find the equalising goal, as they did in the 27th minute. Carlos Delgado picked out Asraf Rashid on the left and the winger fired a low shot which Tampines goalkeeper Sasa Dreven did not gather cleanly. It fell kindly to Gilbert Bayonne and the striker needed no hesitation to tap home from close range.
1-1 it was until the 44th minute when Imran Sahib restored parity for the Stags with a first-time volley which squeezed in at Fajar’s near post.
The Jaguars came out after the break determined to find the equaliser but failed to find their way past the resolute Tampines defence. The closest they came was in the 65th minute when Gilbert Bayonne rounded Sasa Dreven in the penalty area, only to see his shot cleared off the line by Mustafic.
Despite the defeat, Tanjong Pagar’s Terry Pathmanathan was pleased with the overall effort of his team.
He said: “Overall, it was a good performance from the boys. We had a plan in mind and they played according to that.”
“I will not fault any of the players, especially with a tight schedule of ours. I thought that the players pushed themselves to the limit.”
Their second-half performance certainly pleased Pathamanathan but admitted that Tampines were just too good for them at the end of the day.
“I was quite pleased with the second half performance, especially that we tried very hard to equalise and almost. I could see that our opponents were struggling, but credit to them. They were intelligent on the ball and we could not do anything about it.”
Tampines’ Steven Tan on the other hand, was a relieved man when speaking to FootballOPOD after the game.
Heaving a sigh of relief, he said: “It feels good to be back on top again. It was an important three points (gained) today.”
“I told the boys, three points first before we (actually) look at the goals. In the second half, we looked jaded but we still managed to scrape out a 2-1 win (at the end of the day),” he added.
He however, believes that Tanjong Pagar could only get better when the new players gel with the rest of the team.
“Give them a bit more time and they should come good. Especially with Gilbert (Bayonne) and Carlos (Delgado) slowly getting into the team, they will not be an easy team to play.”
“Tanjong Pagar made it hard for us and forced us to make some errors but thank goodness, it did not punish us.”
The Starhub League Cup beckons for both teams and Tanjong Pagar, who are in Group A, will face SAFFC in their first game at Choa Chu Kang on the 26th while Tampines take on Woodlands at Clementi a day later. Both games will kick off at 8.30pm, due to the Muslim fasting month.