Written by: Nevin Gabriel Khoo
Tampines Rovers celebrated a comfortable 5-1 win over Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday night to close the gap between them and leaders Albirex Niigata to 12 points albeit with games in hand in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League.
Needing a win here to catch up with the White Swans, the Stags got off to the worst possible start after conceding in the fourth minute.
A freekick into the box found Atsushi Shirota who then headed the ball back into the six-yard box to Fareez Farhan who tapped the ball home to give the visitors the lead.
However, the away side’s joy at going ahead was short-lived as Tampines equalised eight minutes later.
It was Shahdan who slotted into the bottom left corner to draw the Stags level from the penalty spot after Lionel Tan was adjudged to have committed a foul in his box.
The Stags built on their momentum and went ahead for the first time just before the stroke of half time.
A Ryutaro Megumi cross somehow managed to evade Ivan Dzoni but teammate Irwan Shah was on hand to stab home the loose ball and give the home side a well-deserved lead going into the break.
Jurgen Raab’s charges would extend their advantage just eight minutes after the restart as Dzoni won yet another penalty for the home side.
Shahdan stepped up once again and made no mistake to score his second successful penalty of the night.
Megumi added his name to the scoresheet after a teasing ball from Ismadi Mukhtar found the Japanese winger inside the six-yard box and he composed himself, controlling the ball before unleashing a half-volley to make it four goals to the good for the Stags.
There was still time for Tampines to score a fifth goal as substitute Fazli Ayob slammed home a loose ball to complete the rout.
With the win, Tampines leapfrogged Home United into second in the league with 34 points in 16 games while Hougang remain in sixth with 20 points with the same number of matches played.
Tampines Rovers Head Coach Jurgen Raab:”I knew that Hougang wanted a good result here and they tried with the high pressure in the opening minutes and the start was not so nice for us with the early goal. But how my team managed to come back with this (victory) in the match was very good. It was one of the best performances so far.
“Over 90 minutes we controlled the match. We were very well organized, very aggressive and we did not give them the space they wanted. But I was impressed with how we created attacks and played offensively.”
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We started well but we were defensively poor today. For a team like us to concede five goals today, it was really very poor.
“The goals we conceded today were all really soft. First goal was a penalty but for the second goal, we wanted to play out from a goal kick. With not much time left in the half, we should have been clever enough to know to tuck in, go long and lose the ball up top. Ball goes out finish, we go into half-time 1-1. It would have been better for us.”
“But we conceded and the morale drops and you know the half-time team talk has to change – you now need to chase the game. We created chances in the second half, winning freekicks and Fareez Farhan had a few shots and went close in corners.”
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Madhu Mohana, Shahdan Sulaiman, Ryutaro Megumi, Daniel Bennett (Jufri Taha 90’), Hafiz Sujad (Hafiz Rahim 87’), Ivan Dzoni, Irwan Shah, Fazrul Nawaz (Fazli Ayob 80’)
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Ali Hudzaifi (Faiz Salleh 35’), Atsushi Shirota, Fareez Farhan, Azhar Sairudin (C), Fumiya Kogure, Nazrul Nazari, Fabian Kwok (Syahiran Miswan 70’), Lionel Tan, Zulfahmi Arifin, Wahyudi Wahid (Iqbal Hussain 62’)