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167514118_4424301347584326_7874396866704249847_n(Photo of Tampines Rovers by Football Association of S'pore)

By Chia Han Keong


Humbled 1-5 in their previous match, Tampines Rovers found the perfect riposte on Wednesday, (7 April) as they thrashed the Young Lions 7-0 at Our Tampines Hub to get their Singapore Premier League (SPL) season back on track.

Playing like wounded animals, the Stags ran riot against their overmatched opponents, carving their defence apart time and time again. Had it not been for some wastefulness in front of goal, the scoreline could have been even more embarrassing for the Young Lions.

Nonetheless, it was the biggest scoreline of this SPL season, and not only did it make Tampines’ goal difference look respectable again, but it also moved them past the Lion City Sailors into third spot, behind league leaders Albirex Niigata (Singapore) and Hougang United.

Albirex, the defending champions, had squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Lion City Sailors, while Hougang needed a 97th-minute goal from top-scorer Tomoyuki Doi to salvage a 3-3 draw against bottom-placed Tanjong Pagar United.

There was no such drama at Our Tampines Hub though, as the Stags took control early, heeding coach Gavin Lee’s pre-match comments to focus on getting the win and the three points to bounce back from last Saturday’s heavy defeat by Hougang United.

 170012638_4202778343066604_4383348918469439793_n(Photo of Ilhan by Football Association of Singapore)

After Ilhan Fandi had a couple of half-chances for the Young Lions, the home side went in front in spectacular fashion in the 13th minute. Yasir Hanapi’s corner was met by veteran stalwart Daniel Bennett, starting his first league match of the season in place of the suspended Baihakki Khaizan.

Bennett’s header was cleared off the line, but only as far as the Stags’ Japanese midfielder Kyogo Nakamura, who deftly spun and eluded two Young Lions players before slamming the ball home from outside the penalty box.

 167592436_4424300614251066_8187196037830680830_n(Photo of Nakamura by Football Association of Singapore)

From there on, it was virtually a one-way traffic for Tampines, as they created chance after chance against their opponents, who were hampered by absences to several key players due to national service.

They doubled their lead in the 21st minute, with three of their foreign imports combining for the goal. Montenegrin Armin Bosnjak’s raking cross-field pass found Zehrudin Mehmedovic unmarked in the right flank, and the Serbian had all the time to put in an accurate low cross for striker Boris Kopitovic to tap in easily.

By now, the Cubs had run out of steam after their fast start, and could only watch haplessly Tampines players flooded forward in anticipation of more goal opportunities.

 167948799_4194169960594109_5195966500868175525_n(Photo of the Young Lions by Football Association of Singapore)

Kopitovic and Mehmedovic, however, spurned several well-work chances, before captain Yasir showed them how it’s done a minute before half-time, latching onto Madhu Mohana’s superb long ball and slotting the ball home despite the attentions of two defenders.

With victory virtually assured, Tampines took their feet off the pedal in the second half, even as they continued to probe for openings. Eventually, as the Young Lions began to tire, they went for the kill again. A floating cross from deep by Shah Shahiran in the 67th minute saw Yasir nipping in cleverly for the Stags’ fourth goal.

A minute later, Nakamura took advantage of a defensive jumble to steal possession and slam home Tampines’ fifth. By now, most of the Cubs must had been wishing for the final whistle to be blown.

Their ordeal, however, continued as Zulqarmaen Suzliman clumsily bundled Kopitovic to the ground in the box in the 80th minute. The Montenegrin got up and duly converted the penalty kick, sending goalkeeper Nurshafiq Zaini the wrong way. Kopitovic then completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute, as the Young Lions’ defence was prised open yet again by substitute Marc Ryan Tan for an unmarked Kopitovic to complete the rout.

Tampines will next face league leaders Albirex on Sunday, while the Young Lions will host Tanjong Pagar on Saturday. Meanwhile, Hougang will take on Balestier Khalsa on Saturday, and Geylang International will face Lion City Sailors on Sunday.


169130823_4424467420901052_9043914635116844563_n(Match Scores and Standings by Football Association of Singapore)

Chia Han Keong is a freelance journalist who has covered both Singapore and international sports extensively for the past 18 years. He was the sports editor of bilingual tabloid My Paper, and has also worked for The Straits Times and Yahoo News Singapore. He has covered four SEA Games (2009, 2011, 2013, 2019), two Asian Games (2010, 2014) as well as the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He counts himself as a massive Liverpool, LA Lakers and Rafael Nadal fan.

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