Aleksandar Duric's second-half brace puts Stags in good position to qualify for the next round
Tampines Rovers 3 (Jamil Ali 51’, Aleksandar Duric 55’, 68’)
Woodlands Wellington 1 (Aloysius Yap 66’)
In a League Cup Group D match last night, reigning S.League champions Tampines beat last year’s wooden spoonists, Woodlands 3-1 at home to go top of the table and boosted their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.
It was a victory achieved without mid-season signing and striker Sead Hadzibulic who has already scored six goals for his new club, including a hat-trick against Woodlands when both sides met just nine days ago. Benoit Croissant and Fahrudin Mustafic did not also play a part in this game and while Croissant was named on the bench, Mustafic was left out of the match-day squad entirely, presumably rested.
For Woodlands, first-choice goalkeeper Ahmadulhaq Che Omar and winger Goh Swee Swee missed out due to suspension and that meant a start for reserve goalkeeper Ang Bang Heng in goal. Danny Chew returned to the team and took his place at right-back with Prime League defender Zulkarnain Malik replacing the injured Fabien Lewis.
Ang was tested as early as the second minute when he had to be alert to get down low to prevent Aleksandar Duric from taking the ball past him on the edge of the six yard box. Jufri Taha then glanced a header wide from Jamil’s short corner minutes later.
The rest of the first half belonged to the visitors as they looked more likely to break the deadlock.
In the 10th minute, Hussein Akil played Moon Soon Ho clean through after a Tampines defender had totally missed his clearance but Moon’s attempt was thwarted by the alert Tampines custodian Sasa Dreven. The ball then fell to Guntur Djafril on the edge of the area and his effort took a deflection before flying just over the bar for a corner.
Moon Soon Ho did well to steal possession off Ali Hudzaifi on the right flank but dragged a shot horribly wide in the 27th minute before the Korean somehow wriggled his way past three Tampines defenders and poked the ball past Dreven, only to see the ball trickle out to safety five minutes later.
Daniel Hammond’s free-kick on 38 minutes then missed the top corner by mere inches with the full-stretch Dreven beaten. Neil Vanu tested Dreven five minutes before the break with a stinging shot which the goalkeeper spilled but thankfully for him, there were no Woodlands players near him to capitalise on it.
But Noh Alam Shah – who started the game instead of Hadzibulic, his first start this season – almost put his side into the lead on the stroke of half-time but his header from Gligor Gligorov’s cross could only sail well over the bar.
The second half was a stark contrast of the first, as Tampines took the lead five minutes after the restart through Jamil Ali. It was superb vision from Gligorov to pick out the run of Jamil with a lobbed pass over the head of a Woodlands defender. With the ball now in the penalty area, Jamil expertly chipped the ball over the onrushing Ang Bang Heng for the game’s first goal.
It however did not take long for the home side to double their lead and Aleksandar Duric took advantage of a miscommunication between Daniel Hammond and Ang to slot it into an empty net in the 55th minute. Jamil could have got his second of the night on 57 after being teed up on the edge of the area but saw his powerful shot acrobatically tipped over the bar by Ang Bang Heng.
Substitute Aloysius Yap reduced the deficit for the Rams on 66 minutes. After a corner was not cleared by Tampines, the ball found its way to Yap on the edge of the six yard box and the midfielder lashed home a powerful finish. But Tampines sealed victory just two minutes after Yap’s goal when the unmarked Aleksandar Duric slotted past Ang after Jamil Ali had done well to cut the ball across the penalty area.
The Tampines skipper could have grabbed his hat-trick ten minutes from time but was a step slower to the ball when Alam Shah sent the low cross into the box as the chance went begging. 3-1 it was at the final whistle and Tampines took a huge step in their bid for qualification for the next round of the League Cup.
Tampines coach Steven Tan admitted after the game that his team rushed things a little in the first half and that led to some mistakes, especially in terms of possession play.
“We were forcing the issue in the first half. We were not patient enough and rushed into things which resulted in some mistakes,” he said.
He added: “It’s good to let other players play in the League Cup, as we could have up to four games next week. I’m certainly looking at rotation of my players so as to keep them fresh.”
On the performance of Noh Alam Shah, who made his first start for Tampines since returning, Tan remarked: “He is (definitely) trying his best to gel with the team but (I believe that) he will get there. You can see that he is still aggressive but that’s Alam Shah for you!”
According to Woodlands assistant coach Clement Teo, it was their inconsistent concentration levels throughout which ultimately cost them the game.
“No excuse, what’s there to be unlucky? It’s not about (whether we were) unlucky (or not), we just had to be more consistent in our concentration levels. We cannot afford that, and that does not apply only to football.”
“We were very confident of getting at least a goal in the first half, and we were very confident after the first ten minutes. We were telling ourselves we need to score.”
“But we just need to move on and continue what we have been doing. Tactically, I think we were quite balanced in the first half.”
One thing that seemed to have pleased Teo, was the effort put in by his charges.
“They tried, no doubt about it and mistakes were made. We were trying our ultimate best to push them. The players were trying and that’s very important for us.
He concluded: “Naturally, after so many defeats in a row, your morale will just drop!”
Woodlands entertain 2008 League Cup champions Gombak United at the Woodlands Stadium on Monday (30th July) while Tampines will travel to Jurong West to take on the Bulls next Thursday (2nd August). The top two teams of each group progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Tampines: Sasa Dreven; Ali Hudzaifi, Jufri Taha, Anaz Hadee (Ahmed Fahmie 52’); Imran Sahib, Ismadi Mukhtar (Sazali Salleh 49’), Gligor Gligorov, Ahmad Latiff (Hairulnazri Hanafi 80’), Jamil Ali; Noh Alam Shah, Aleksandar Duric (C) Unused subs: Arif Ali, Sead Hadzibulic, Fazil Zailani, Benoit Croissant
Woodlands: Ang Bang Heng; Danny Chew, Duncan Elias, Daniel Hammond (C), Zulkarnain Malik; Armanizam Dolah (Aloysius Yap 61’), Guntur Djafril (Omar Ismail 71’), Farizal Basri (Oswind Suriya 61’); Neil Vanu, Hussein Akil, Moon Soon Ho Unused subs: Fearghus Lyle, Han Yi Guang, Mark Tan, Danial Tan
Yellow card(s): - (Tampines); - (Woodlands)
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