Tampines edge Geylang to return to winning ways

Title contenders Tampines Rovers were not impressive, but still managed to eke out a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Geylang International at the Bedok Stadium on Thursday night.  

A Yasir Hanapi goal in the first half was enough to separate the two sides in a tight encounter played out in front of 2,369 fans.  

After consecutive defeats to Ceres La Salle and Albirex Niigata (S), Tampines were looking to return to winning ways and their bid to do so was helped by the return of custodian Izwan Mahbud from injury.

The 25-year-old was not troubled much in the first 45 minutes though, with the Stags largely on top of things.  

Star man Jermaine Pennant started in his usual right wing role and was on the receiving end of numerous crunching challenges from an aggressive Geylang outfit.

That certainly did not go down well with Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy, who was involved in an angry remonstration with fourth official Farhan Mohd midway through the half after the former Liverpool star was brought down crudely by Safirul Sulaiman for the umpteenth time.

The Stags plugged away and eventually broke the deadlock in the 28th minute.

Forward Billy Mehmet showed some good hold-up play in the final third before releasing Hafiz to square the ball across for Yasir to turn past a stranded Syazwan Buhari in the Geylang goal.

That left Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani an unhappy man as he believed the goalscorer was marginally offside when he got the decisive touch.

“Did you see whether he was offside from up there?” he questioned reporters after the game. “We thought it was and that changed the whole complexion of the game.”

After the break, Geylang were keen to turn things and winger Gabriel Quak was brought on to replace midfield hard man Isa Halim.

The Eagles switched to a more straightforward 4-4-2 formation but continued to struggle in breaching a solid Tampines backline led by Mustafic Fahrudin.

Stanely Ng was then thrown on in the final 20 minutes to add more impetus to the attack and they nearly levelled matters thereafter, with Shawal Anuar prodding just over from Quak’s searching cross.

Tampines had a chance to seal the game on 86 minutes, but Pennant’s 25-yard free-kick shaved the upright before going out of play.

Geylang threw bodies forward in the dying minutes, but were unable to bring the Tampines roof down with Carlos Delgado’s shot almost catching Izwan off-guard.

Sundramoorthy was pleased that his side managed to emerge victorious and pull level with leaders Albirex on 17 points.

“It was a difficult game for us because Geylang was no easy meat,” explained the former Singapore international. “We controlled the game and passed the ball well in the first half, but Geylang pressed and dominated the last 15 minutes.

“This win is very important for us because we managed to put pressure on Albirex before they play (Brunei) DPMM on Friday.”

Meanwhile opposite counterpart Hasrin was left lamenting his side’s misfortunes after yet another game without a win – the Eagles have won just one (and drawn six) of their nine games this season.

“It all comes down to a four-letter word – L-U-C-K,” said the first-year coach. “We don’t have that at the moment and we have to keep working hard to turn things around.”