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Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Tampines Rovers: All Square At Toa Payoh Stadium As We Begin Our 2022 Campaign

The sky may have been overcast, but thankfully, there was no torrential downpour, unlike previous evenings. Instead, the Singapore Premier League anthem played and the players stepped out onto the pitch. Minutes later, at 5:30 pm, the referee for the evening Muhammad Taqi blew the first whistle to kick off our match against Balestier Khalsa, and thus our 2022 SPL campaign officially commenced.

Unlike Balestier sides of old, the Stags came up against a revamped Balestier side, coached by former Tampines Rovers head coach Akbar Nawas. The new-look Tigers frustrated us and made it difficult for us to play our usual game. In fact, the Stags failed to convert their chances in the first half an hour so but did indeed come close on multiple instances.


Zehrudin Mehmedović came close in the 14th minute when he managed to escape his markers but his shot was saved by Rudy Khairullah. The rebound from Zeko's effort fell to Taufik Suparno but his attempt was once again denied by the Balestier custodian. In the 21st minute, Taufik played a fantastic through ball to Boris Kopitović and while the towering Montenegrin did well to find space, his shot, unfortunately, found the side netting instead of the back of the net. Despite these missed opportunities, the momentum of the game was in the Stags' favour and it seemed that we were destined to break the deadlock sooner rather than later.


1-0 to the Stags - Breaking The Deadlock

It was Boris who finally gave Tampines Rovers the lead in the 36th minute. Receiving the ball from a quick one-two from Kyoga Nakamura, he unleashed a low driven shot near the edge of the box. Boris's effort zoomed past Rudy into the bottom right corner of the woodwork and ricocheted into the back of the net. What a sensational way to open your account for the season.

2-0 to the Stags - Just Before Half Time

Just as the announcement was made that there would be two minutes of additional time in the first half, Amirul Haikal whipped a delicious cross from the left flank into the centre of the penalty box where it found Taufik Suparno, who rose above his marker, Aqil Yazid, to head the ball past Rudy and provide Tampines Rovers with a 2-0 lead just before the break. Taufik had previously shared that he wanted to score more goals this season and like Boris, has notched his first goal of the campaign.


The Restart


2-1 to the Stags - Tigers strike early in Second Half


Almost immediately after the restart, Balestier Khalsa unleashed a fast-paced offensive against the Stags and Tampines fell victim to the high press. After gaining possession from the Stags, Ammirul Emmeran passed the ball to Ryoya Taniguchi, who scooped up the ball for Shuhei "Jumbo" Hoshino. The Japanese target man scored a header to reduce the deficit and bring the Tigers back into the fray.


2-2 to the Stags - Back to a Stalemate


Balestier Khalsa managed to claw back and equalize in the 58th minute. Ensar Brunčević slotted it past Syazwan Buhari to make the scoreline 2-2.


We may have lost the lead and while it was frustrating to have done so, the Stags knew how critical it was to remain firm in their resolve. Wave after wave of Tampines attacks followed but we could not convert our chances. Meanwhile, Balestier Khalsa also staged counterattacks on their own but failed to take their chances as well. It was a tense battle between both sides as both sides were hungry for the win.

When the final whistle was sounded, both teams had to share the spoils with the final scoreline 2-2. The Stags were left disappointed because they knew that this was a game where they could have gained three points had they converted their chances. After months of preparation and pre-season friendlies, the Stags wanted to set the tone right with a good season opener against the Tigers. Still, while the result was less than favourable, we do have a long season ahead. The team knows that they need to reflect on this fixture, resolve the issues that prevented them from claiming the win, and ensure that mistakes do not repeat again.

The fixture also saw a number of players make their debuts for the Stags. Ong Yu En and Shuya Yamashita had their first competitive starts for Tampines Rovers while Chris van Huizen re-debuted for the Stags for the third time after turning out for Tampines in two prior spells with the club. Syed Firdaus Hassan came off the bench to notch his first appearance for the team and likewise, Firdaus Kasman's second-half substitute appearance marked his fifth spell with the Stags.

Regardless, it was great to see the Stags back in SPL action and we were delighted to see several Tampines Rovers fans in attendance at Toa Payoh Stadium. We hope to see more of you in the upcoming fixtures!

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