Mustafic: There’s more to Tampines than just Pennant
Much has been spoken about Tampines' attacking trio of Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet, with the former even making a tongue-in-cheek Instagram post describing themselves as 'JJB' – the S.League’s version of 'MSN' (nickname for Barcelona’s supreme trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar).
But it was the locals that stepped up and delivered as they picked up their first league win of the season against Hougang.
Shahdan Sulaiman, Ismadi Mukhtar, Mustafic and Fazrul Nawaz scored the goals, while Izzdin Shafiq and Shakir Hamzah also put in commanding performances in midfield and at the back respectively.
“We have the best local players in Singapore,” a pleased Mustafic told FourFourTwo. “Most of them here are national team players.
“Jermaine, Jordan and Billy give us that extra quality that we need in this side, but at the same time the locals are equally good and they showed it.”
Hougang came into this game full of confidence after upsetting Home United 1-0 the last time out, but were duly blown away by three Tampines goals inside the first 19 minutes.
Mustafic was keen to assert that the explosive start did not happen by accident.
“It didn’t surprise us at all because we really wanted to start well,” explained the 34-year-old. “The game plan was always to press them very high and try to get the goals in the first 15 minutes.
“We knew that it was never going to be easy because Hougang is a good side. Because they’re coming here with confidence after the win against Home, we had to come out very strong on them.
“In the end, we opened up and scored three goals so quickly – it was an amazing start.”
Having let slip a two-goal lead in their opening 3-3 draw against Geylang International, Mustafic was happy that his side did not bungle again in a similar commanding position.
“Against Geylang, we allowed them to come back, but this time we did not defended well and did not give Hougang much chances,” he reflected.
“This shows that the team is learning. It happened once and we had to make sure it didn’t happen again. We managed to score the fourth goal which is the killer and that gives us a good feeling.”
Mustafic believes the win gives the Stags good platform to build on as they take on their fellow title challengers next.
“Definitely we need this result because I think this team just needs the momentum,” he said.
“We really have quality in the squad and you can see in the game where we changed seven players from the AFC Cup game (a 4-0 win against Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club).
“Now we just have to work hard and keep going, especially because we have big games against Home United and Brunei DPMM coming up next.”
Photo: Tampines Rovers