|Photo: Chris Harvey|
Benoit Croissant 93'
Diallo Mamadou 45'
“Better one point than no point”, said a relieved Steven Tan as his Stags were lucky to escape with a point at home against 10-men Hougang United.
In a game which finished one apiece, Hougang’s Azhar Sairudin earned himself an early bath before the half hour mark when he allegedly stamped on Tampines’ Ali Hudzaifi as both went for the same ball. Mamadou Diallo then fired the visitors into the lead just before the interval with a well-struck free kick, before Benoit Croissant equalized for the hosts in controversial fashion deep into stoppage time.
The heavy downpour before the game had threatened the game to be called off, with the pitch being waterlogged. However, it subsided just before kickoff and the game went ahead as usual.
The first 15 minutes saw both sides enjoying equal amount of possession, stroking the ball around and looking for gaps in the opponents’ backline. Hougang were defending deep, hardly allowing Tampines any time and space on the ball.
The game started opening up after the 20 minute mark, and it was Tampines who came close to breaking the deadlock on 23 minutes. A brilliant through ball by Gligor Gligorov from midfield was met by the run of an onside Jamil Ali as he latched onto it. With some space ahead of him, he took the ball past Hougang custodian Fadhil Salim before curling a shot which found the side-netting.
Azhar Sairudin was then sent off two minutes later for an alleged stamp on Ali Hudzaifi after both players went for the same ball. While the kick by Ali on Azhar only warranted a yellow, the one by Azhar was not as referee Sukhbir Singh pulled out the red card against the midfielder.
The dismissal saw Nurhilmi Jasni, who started in an advanced midfield role, drop back to central midfield slot left void by Azhar alongside Ante Barac.
An injury to Jamil Ali saw him replaced by Fazil Zailani on 27 minutes, as Hougang’s Mamadou Diallo saw his powerful free kick from 15 yards out tipped around the post for a corner by Sasa Dreven.
Duric then saw his low shot on the half-hour mark gathered by Fadhil, after Duric had controlled an Ali Hudzaifi cross from the left. As the half progressed, the Clementi Stadium pitch was visibly cut up, due to the heavy downpour that had fallen on the ground earlier.
Gligorov struck the post five minutes before the break after a one-two with Duric as Hougang took the lead one minute into injury time.
|Photo: Chris Harvey|
Tampines then sent Davor Piskor on for defender Ali Hudzaifi after the break, in an attempt to boost firepower upfront.
Fadhil had to be alert in the 55th minute, clearing the ball with his outstretched right foot from a Fahrudin Mustafic free kick. Fazli Jaffar then almost doubled Hougang’s lead five minutes later. Spotting Sasa off his line, he tried to curl a shot over the custodian but Sasa somehow managed to claw the ball away to safety.
On the other end, Benoit Croissant blazed his effort over from six yards out following a Duric knockdown, with the goal at his mercy. It was a typical defender’s shot from the 32-year-old as Tampines continued to pile on the pressure.
The pressure almost resulted in an equalizer on 87 minutes. Failing to clear their lines, Hougang first saw Mustafic’s effort come off the upright before heaving a sigh of relief when substitute Fazil Zailani fired the rebound over the bar from four yards out.
When it seemed that Hougang would walk away with all three points, Tampines got an equalizer deep in injury time, albeit a controversial one.
Basit Hamid was appeared to have been pushed from the back by Mustafic, whose header was clawed away by Fadhil after a cross-shot from the right. The rebound was pounced on by Benoit Croissant, who headed home from close range to earn a point for the Stags.
What enraged the Hougang team and the fans alike was the fact that the linesman on the near side raised his flag for the foul but only to bring it down after seeing the man in the middle, Sukhbir Singh, award the goal.
Aerial threat nullified
The presence of Stanislav Vidakovic in defence for Hougang proved to be crucial as he dealt with the aerial balls played behind the defence to Aleksandar Duric, which Vidakovic dealt comfortably with throughout. The dismissal of Azhar Sairudin did not deter Hougang from playing their usual game, as Ante Barac looked comfortable in the middle of the park, pulling the strings in midfield for the Cheetahs.
|Photo: Great Eastern Yeo's S-League|
Not a fair result, says Tan
Escaping with a point, head coach Steven Tan felt that it the 1-1 draw was not a fair result as his side had enough chances to kill the game. He thought that his side could have done better with the numerical advantage they had over Hougang for almost 60 minutes of the game.
“But overall, I felt that it was a fair one,” Tan added.
Hougang’s Nenad Bacina thought Tampines deserved the point but hailed the spirit of his team.
“Maybe at the end of the day, I have to think Tampines also deserve this point because they worked hard. But I think maybe we are a lucky team, but not lucky enough to collect all three points…”
On the dismissal of Azhar Sairudin, Bacina admitted that he did not see the incident and hence, could not comment on that.
Tampines Rovers: Sasa Dreven (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Sazali Salleh (Ahmed Fahmie 79’), Aleksandar Duric (C), Anaz Hadee, Gligor Gligorov, Benoit Croissant, Ali Hudzaifi (Davor Piskor 46’), Jamil Ali (Fazil Zailani 27’)
Unused subs: Syaiful Iskandar, Hairulnazri Hanafi, Haziq Azman, Fariq Ghani
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim (GK), Hasree Zais, Lau Meng Meng (C), Stanislav Vidakovic, Ante Barac, Azhar Sairudin, Jordan Webb, Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 84’), Faizal Amir, Mamadou Diallo (Ignatius Ang 90’), Nurhilmi Jasni (Ridhwan Osman 78’)
Unused subs: Ridzuan Hasan, Khayrulhayat Jumat, Sobrie Mazelan, Fazly Hasan
Yellow cards: Ali Hudzaifi, Anaz Hadee, Sasa Dreven (Tampines); Fazli Jaffar, Nurhilmi Jasni (Hougang)
Red cards: Azhar Sairudin (Hougang)