In-form Pennant gets Tampines’ AFC Cup campaign up and running

Jermaine Pennant was involved in all four goals as the star-studded Tampines Rovers put an end to their frustrating start to the season with an emphatic 4-0 win over Bangladesh’s LT. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in their AFC Cup Group E opener on Tuesday night.

It was Tampines’ first competitive win of 2016, as they were previously held to a 3-3 draw by Geylang International in their season opener before their game with Warriors FC was postponed in the 12th minute due to a waterlogged pitch.

There’s a reason he played for Liverpool and hopefully we see more of such performances in the future

- V Sundramoorthy

Billy Mehmet and Hafiz Sujad put the Stags two up at the break, before an Afiq Yunos strike and a Topu Barman own goal completed the job for V Sundramoorthy’s men in front of 2,378 fans at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Tampines got off to a flyer by scoring within two minutes of the kick-off, with Pennant exchanging passes with Fabian Kwok before squaring across the goalmouth for Mehmet to bundle home the opener.  

Pennant then went for glory himself on 12 minutes, but his 30-yard freekick sailed just wide of the left-hand post.

The former Arsenal and Liverpool man was clearly enjoying his football as he played his part again in their second goal on 33 minutes.

His through ball set-up Mehmet, who picked out Hafiz with a brilliant cross from the right. The latter then produced a superb diving header that gave Sheikh Jamal goalkeeper Mazharul Islam no chance.

The Stags continued their dominance after the break and duly scored twice more in quick succession.

Pennant's cross helped open the scoring for Tampines

On 52 minutes, South Korean defender Kwon Jun’s header from Pennant’s inswinging corner was blocked but eventually fell to an unmarked Afiq to prod home from close range.

A minute later, Pennant showed his class again by whipping in a superb cross from the right that forced Topu to turn into his own net.

The 33-year-old then received a raucous reception upon exiting the stage on 73 minutes as he made way for Fazrul Nawaz.

Speaking after the game, Sundram was clearly satisfied with how his star man fared, although he admitted there is a lot of improvement to be made before they travel to Shah Alam to take on Malaysia Cup champions Selangor FA in their next group game.

“He was great; you can see the defence-splitting passes he gave,” he said. “There’s a reason why he played for Liverpool and hopefully we can see more of such performances from him in the future.

“It’s good to start off with a win, but I feel that we can do better. This is still the beginning of the season, so we need more gelling up; we can be more clinical and keep the ball better.

“Definitely we need to improve before playing Ceres and Selangor, who are very good teams.”

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo