Tampines Rovers FC bounced back from their season-opening Great Eastern Community Shield defeat with a resounding 3-1 win over Eastern rivals Geylang International FC at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) on Saturday evening.
“The main target was to win and we did it. We played really well in the first half and showed our style of football, which I was very happy with. But we conceded just before half-time and Geylang changed their system in the second half, which made it difficult for us. For that, we must learn to manage the game,” said Tampines Head Coach Juergen Raab.
Canadian winger Jordan Webb was the star of the show as he scored two first-half goals to set the Stags on the way to their first Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) victory.
Geylang pulled one back on the stroke of half-time through Fairoz Hasan, but Tampines killed off any hopes of a Eagles comeback after the break through a late Khairul Amri penalty.
The visitors came into the game on the back of an encouraging 1-1 draw against title-chasing Warriors FC, but their hopes of an upset took a massive blow after just 24 seconds.
Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi tore down the right before putting a teasing cross into the six-yard box that Amri missed, but Webb was on hand to tap home at the far post.
Geylang could have grabbed a quick equaliser, but Fairoz failed to get a clean connection on Shawal Anuar’s cross.
The game was then halted for a few minutes midway through the first half due to Geylang goalkeeper Basil Chan sustaining a head injury. Fortunately, he was able to continue after treatment.
Tampines doubled their lead on 37 minutes, with Megumi instrumental once again. Striding onto a superb through pass by captain Fahrudin Mustafic, the 25-year-old then unselfishly squared the ball for Webb to convert his second.
Geylang would halve the deficit just before the break though. Ryan Syaffiq latched onto Azhar Sairudin’s defence-splitting pass before crossing in from the right for Fairoz to tap home his first Eagles goal.
The goal gave the Eagles renewed belief and Hirotaka Usui’s side came close to restoring parity on 58 minutes, with Yuki Ichikawa’s header off Fumiya Kogure’s corner blocked off by Shameer Aziq on the line.
However, all hopes of a comeback was ended nine minutes from time as captain Anders Aplin was adjudged to have fouled Amri in the area.
The latter stepped up and duly sent Chan the wrong way to seal all three points for the Stags.
The win meant Juergen Raab’s Stags extended their unbeaten league record to seven games at OTH since returning home in August 2017.
“It was a mismatch of tactics in the first half and we lost the ball too many times. In the second half, I changed the system and that worked better for us,” said Geylang Head Coach Hirotaka Usui. – www.fas.org.sg