|Photo: Chris Harvey|
HGFC 5Fazli Jaffar 13', Ante Barac 19' (pen), Jordan Webb 27', Azhar Sarudin 59', Diallo Mamadou 68'
Sead Hadžibulić 17' (pen)
Tampines Rovers were given a stern reminder of how badly defeat could sting them when they visited Hougang Stadium for a friendly outing against Hougang United on Thursday evening.
If the outcome of the match was anything to go by, the Stags will do well to be wary when they step out on the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch to take on SAFFC in the penultimate league game of their season in a week’s time.
Falling on the wrong end of a 5-1 mauling might have mattered little in itself, given that there were no points or trophies at stake, but there were worrying signs in the manner of the defeat.
Perhaps Tampines wanted to conserve their energy for the upcoming challenges – they meet the Warriors as well in the RHB Singapore Cup final – or perhaps the absence of Aleksandar Duric, Jufri Taha and Fahrudin Mustafic due to national team commitments weakened them somewhat.
The distinct lack of enthusiasm in their play throughout the 90 minutes was distinct, however, whereas the hosts appeared to be up for every 50-50 ball.
Fazli Jaffar opened the scoring after only 13 minutes by slotting into an empty net, after Jordan Webb’s unselfish pass inside the box caught Stags goalkeeper Sasa Dreven by complete surprise.
The visitors managed to level matters four minutes later when Sead Hadzibulic pulled off an Antonin Panenka-like finish with his penalty kick after Ahmed Fahmie was brought down by Faizal Amir, but that was all they were to muster in this game.
Barely two minutes after the goal by Hadzibulic, a infringement by Benoit Croissant inside the area was spotted by the linesman, and Ante Barac duly stepped up to send Dreven the wrong way.
On 27 minutes, the Cheetahs extended their lead as Webb was allowed to slalom through unmolested before slotting past a stranded Dreven.
Other than a long shot and a Noh Alam Shah header that went wide, the Stags did virtually nothing in the attacking third for the rest of the first half.
Stags coach Tay Peng Kee proceeded to rest his first-team players at the break, with Dreven, Anaz Hadee, Ismadi Mukhtar, Sazali Salleh and Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin all coming off for their Prime League counterparts.
The inexperience of that second-half lineup was duly exploited by Hougang in the second half.
Azhar Sairudin bundled home from close range on 59 minutes off a Mamadou Diallo cutback, while the Guinean hit one of his own nine minutes later with a 20-yard grasscutter that fizzed past Stags substitute goalkeeper Arif Ali.
Other than a Fahmie lob that went wide of the post, the Stags were largely under the cosh in the closing stages as they fell to a four-goal defeat.
Tay appeared unperturbed by the defeat when speaking to sleague.com after the match, saying quite little on the game.
The former Singapore international preferred to focus on the fact that his players were able to gain some match fitness from this outing, as the league takes a break for the international weekend.
Despite the huge margin of the victory, Hougang coach Nenad Bacina believed the Stags still have what it takes to retain the S.League title.
“SAFFC may give them some trouble in their next game, but Tampines are a good team,” noted the former Warriors skipper.
“They’re still the team to beat this season.” (SOURCE)