Title-chasing Tampines Rovers picked up their first league win of the season by thumping Hougang United 4-1 in front of 2,106 fans at Jurong West Stadium on Friday night.
Goals from Shahdan Sulaiman, Ismadi Mukhtar, Fahrudin Mustafic and Fazrul Nawaz helped the Stags to an emphatic result, although Stipe Plazibat did grab a consolation for the visitors.
After a disappointing 3-3 draw against Geylang International at the same venue, V Sundramoorthy’s side were determined to make amends in front of their home fans as they raced to a three-goal lead after just 19 minutes of play.
Within eight minutes of kick-off, Shahdan had opened the floodgates with an opportunistic volley past Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid after Billy Mehmet saw his goalbound shot charged down by Delwinder Singh.
We can still improve, but I’m happy with this result.
Three minutes later, Mehmet released an overlapping Ismadi, who continued his run into the box before rifling past a helpless Khairulhin.
Captain Mustafic then joined in the act as he got the slightest of touches to head home Pennant’s inswinging free-kick to put the Stags three up.
Hougang duly regrouped and managed to find a way back into the game three minutes before the half-hour mark.
The Cheetahs did carve out another couple of good openings towards the end of the first half, but Kaplan failed to keep his header down while Nazrul’s snapshot from the edge of the box was smothered by Izwan.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran then introduced star man Fumiya Kogure 15 minutes into the second half, but the reigning S.League Player of the Year struggled to make an impact.
Plazibat and M. Anumanthan had opportunities to reduce the deficit but they were unable to find the target.
Eventually, it was the home side who put the result beyond doubt seven minutes from time, with Fazrul collecting Izzdin Shafiq’s neat through pass before firing an unstoppable left-footed drive past Khairulhin.
The 4-1 scoreline left Sundram a happy man, although the Stags coach asserted that there are plenty of areas to improve on before they face Home United next Thursday.
“The first win is always very important,” explained the Stags coach. “Hougang is a team which we cannot take lightly; they could have even made it 3-3 (before the fourth goal).
“Naturally when you go three goals up early, complacency sets in and we failed to do the things which we’ve been doing. After Hougang pulled one back, we started to wake up.
“Fortunately there is the half-time break to regroup. In the second half, we did well and did not allow them to create much chances except a couple of 30 to 40-yard shots. We can still improve, but I’m happy with this result.”
Photo: Weixiang Lim / FourFourTwo