Tampines end losing run with emphatic Eastern Derby win

Three times was the charm for Tampines Rovers as the Stags avoided a third defeat in a week, cruising past rivals Geylang International in a comprehensive 4-0 S.League win at the Jalan Besar Stadium on a wet Saturday evening. 

The visitors, who were smarting from defeats in their past three games in all competitions, showed no signs of fatigue throughout the first Eastern Derby of the S.League season, outplaying a poor Eagles side in all areas of the pitch.

Forward Ryutaro Megumi led the way with two goals and two assists, both of which led to well-taken efforts from attacking partner Yasir Hanapi.

Tampines coach Juergen Raab was pleasantly surprised by the margin of victory, which was much-needed after losing to Warriors FC and Hanoi FC this week.

As expected of a derby, hard tackles flew and furious shouts rang out. But while Tampines passed the ball around the pitch with composure and finesse, Geylang, who were playing their first home game at the stadium, struggled to string passes together.

“I would have been happy with a win, and that shows the team has learnt their lessons from the match against Warriors, where we were not so well-prepared for the aggressive and the motivation from the team,” said Raab after the game.

“And that’s always the first thing you must bring on the pitch, and the team was ready for this today.”

As expected of a derby, hard tackles flew and furious shouts rang out. But while Tampines passed the ball around the pitch with composure and finesse, Geylang, who were playing their first home game at the stadium, struggled to string passes together.

Due to consistent pressure from the Stags, the Eagles were often reduced to hopeful long balls from centre-back pairing Anders Aplin and Yuki Ichikawa, and failed to muster any meaningful foray forward.

Joey Sim, who deputised in place of the injured Izwan Mahbud, had a comfortable outing and was ably protected by a composed backline led by the solid Mustafic Fahrudin.

A stroke of luck coupled with poor defending by the Geylang backline led to Megumi’s opening goal in the 34th minute. His deflected effort, which wrong-footed Eagles custodian Nur Amin Malik, gave the Stags the lead at half-time.

It was a fiesty Eastern Derby indeed

Urged on by the home fans, the Eagles came out spirited but clear-cut chances remained few and far between, with midfielder Shahfiq Ghani guilty of taking long shots to the frustration of his teammates.

In what was their best chance thurs far to equalise, winger Amy Recha failed to convert after a mix-up between goalkeeper Sim and Fahrudin following a long ball from striker Victor Coto.

It was poor defending that let them down again in the 60th minute, as Yasir side-footed a first-time effort past the goalkeeper after a lay-off from Megumi, who was afforded too much space in the box.

The two-goal deficit prompted Geylang to play with more urgency, with Coto firing a free-kick just wide of the near post.

But a rapid counter-attack from a corner-kick in the 80th minute led to Megumi running with the ball from box to box before feeding Yasir to curl another first-time shot home, effectively hitting the last nail in the coffin for Geylang.

It was not easy after the knockout (from the AFC Cup) on Tuesday. (But the team) held up our heads, and for this I was very impressed (with) what the team has delivered…we are very happy to have won the match

- Tampines coach Raab

By this time it was damage limitation for the hosts, with coach Hasrin Jailani bringing on defender Darren Teh for Amy shortly after.

The impressive Megumi had the last laugh as he bamboozled the hapless Geylang defence in the final minute of play to cap off a productive display.

Despite this being their first competitive match in over a month, Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani insists his charges have “no excuses” as they head back to the drawing board.

He said: “I was expecting a good fight, but at the end of the day…we lost, we didn’t play well at all. I think the players know as well.

“We didn’t have a good first half, second half we tried in the first few minutes… we need to bounce back from a heavy defeat.”

For Tampines, the win was much-needed after their recent rough patch.

“It was not easy after the knockout (from the AFC Cup) on Tuesday. (But the team) held up our heads, and for this I was very impressed (with) what the team has delivered…we are very happy to have won the match,” said Raab.

Tampines next face Felda United in the AFC Cup, while Geylang will aim to come back from this defeat against bottom-dwellers Garena Young Lions.

Photos: S.League