Attack earns three points for Akbar’s Tampines

Tampines Rovers got to a winning start under Akbar Nawas with a 4-3 victory over Brunei DPMM at Jurong West Stadium on Saturday evening.

Despite missing up to five first-team members, including Izwan Mahbud, the Stags managed to put on a show, especially in attack as Akbar had vowed to do so in the days leading up to this game. 

They created a number of chances in attack and peppered Wardun Yussof’s goal with shots, although questions has to be asked of their defence after they conceded easy goals.

That is something Akbar admitted is a “work in progress”, as the team is still trying the right balance between attacking and defending.

“It’s nice to attack, we all love to attack, but you could see from the game it was really hard [to defend] … I thought the game could have gone either way,” Akbar said after the game.

“DPMM, credit to them, they came out fighting, they came out pressing for every single ball. They put us on the back foot.

“We should see those positive they (the Tampines players) have and try to strike a balance and work at it in training… hopefully we can analyse the game and do better next time round. “

Starting with an adventurous 3-4-1-2 formation that saw Christopher Van Huizen and Jordan Webb lining up down the flanks, the hosts created chances right from the start.

Webb and Fabian Kwok both saw early chances to score but could not take it, as did Fazrul Nawaz in the 16th minute after Jermaine Pennant sent him through on goal with a brilliant through ball.

DPMM could have taken the lead twice in a minute, but Paulo Sergio saw his effort stopped on the line by Yasir Hanapi after Azwan Ali and Rafael Ramazotti combined well to set the Portugese up in the 30th minute, before the Brazilian striker himself drew a top save from Joey Sim on the counter attack.

Their inability to do so gave Tampines the impetus and the hosts did exactly that seven minutes later, when Fazrul blasted Webb’s cross from six yards into the back of the net.

Azwan Ali produced a brilliant curling shot that equalised matters in the 43rd minute, but two minutes later, the Stags surged ahead again after Webb nodded in Pennant’s wicked free-kick.

The visitors drew level for the second time 12 minutes into the second half, after Ramazotti rose highest to nod in Azwan’s free-kick.

Fazrul almost scored in the 59th minute after he met Jufri Taha’s cross from point-blank range, but Wardun somehow managed to stop it from going in.

There was nothing the DPMM custodian could have done to prevent Billy Mehmet from doing so minutes later however, after substitute Hafiz Sujad picked out the striker superbly with a low cross.

An Afiq Yunos mistake at the back allowed Ramazotti to score his second of the night in the 71st minute however, as DPMM came back for a third time.

But once again, DPMM had no answer for Tampines’ forays in attack and nine minutes later, Pennant scored the winner.

The winger played a one-two with Hafiz, with the latter playing a beautiful reverse pass, before slotting the ball into the bottom corner past Wardun calmly.

Tampines abandoned their attacking instincts to shut up shop at the back in the last 10 minutes of the game, with Akbar throwing on Irwan Shah and Ismadi Mukhtar.

DPMM found it harder to create any openings, but eventually did so in injury time when Sergio picked out Shahrazen Said from a corner, only for the substitute to head over and end any hopes of one more comeback.

At the post-match press conference, Akbar cut a visibly happy figure and stated that the victory took “some load of pressure off him”.

“Building up to this game, there’s so much pressure on me – taking the team for the first time and all that,” Akbar said.

“Now hopefully, we can perform again in the next game and better our performance.”

On the other hand, DPMM coach Steve Kean was left exasperated. He said: “I’m disappointed, because we see a dramatic improvement on our attacking play, we see a big improvement on something that we have been working on for a few weeks.

“But the place we fell down tonight is not just goalkeeper or back four but as a team. We didn’t defended as a team… we are leaving people exposed. That’s the next thing we’ve to work on. The things that we did very wrong against Home United, there’s a dramatic improvement.

“I’m not saying we are deserved to win tonight, but I certainly don’t we deserved to lose tonight on the amount of chances we created. We had the better chances.”

Image: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo