Updated: Feb 27
It may have been a pre-season exhibition match but it’s never a friendly when we face Geylang International. The atmosphere was tense from the get-go as we were pitted against our Eastern Derby opponents. We played this fixture in three 45-minute halves (so 1 and a half games - so to speak).
The First 90 Minutes
When the referee blew the first whistle, the game kicked off with the sheer intensity as you’d expect from long-time rivals. For the bulk of the first 45 minutes, the match was filled with scrappy play and we had to dig deep to find ways to overcome a crowded Eagles midfield.
The Stags managed to string across some fantastic passes but we weren’t able to convert in the final third.
Then, towards the end of the first half, we broke through a stubborn Geylang defense.
Boris Kopitović broke the deadlock and gave Tampines Rovers the lead after capitalising on an error by Geylang custodian Zaiful Nizam. It looked like we were heading into half-time with the lead.
Yet, our lead was short-lived as minutes later, new Geylang signing Šime Žužul unleashed a perfectly executed finesse shot from the edge of the box that saw the ball curl into the top right corner. It seemed destined for it to be all square at halftime.
However, there was to be another twist to the tale.
In the dying embers of the first 45 minutes, Irfan Najeeb found enough space along the right flank to unleash a powerful low driven cross that found Irwan Shah in the middle of the Geylang six-yard box. Irwan simply tapped in the goal to restore Tampines’s lead. 2-1 to the Stags.
The second half commenced and, as opposed to the first half, the Stags were finding more space down the flanks and creating more chances.
Our Stags tried to break down the Geylang defence and increase our lead, but Geylang stood firm.
Halfway into the second half, we subbed in several of our younger players to give them the opportunity to showcase their abilities.
Our Young Bucks did well. The Eagles tried to claw back but our players held resolutely to our lead. As the referee blew his whistle at the end of the second 45 minutes, we secured a 2-1 victory over our fierce rivals.
At the end of the first 90 minutes, it was: Tampines Rovers 2-1 Geylang International.
The Third Half
During the 10 minute break prior to the start of the last 45 minutes, we reshuffled our team with more youth players added to the mix. Likewise, Geylang introduced more of their younger players as well.
Once the referee blew his whistle, the final half commenced. Tampines Rovers struck first through a corner kick, where a mystery player scored his first goal for the club, converting from the set-piece. Who is this mystery player? All will be revealed soon enough.
Geylang conceded a penalty against us sometime later and Ong Yu En stepped up to the plate. After scoring a brace against Tanjong Pagar in the previous fixture, he was never going to miss from the spot-kick and duly converted his penalty into the bottom right corner, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Geylang managed to equalize and convert from two set-pieces of their own. The first goal came from a Geylang freekick while the second was converted from an Eagles corner.
At the end of the third 45-minute half, Tampines Rovers and Geylang International shared the spoils with the scoreline finishing 2-2.
Reflections And Thoughts
Amirul Haikal believes that there were improvements from the previous friendly fixture against Tanjong Pagar United.
“I felt that we collectively performed better than the first game in terms of meeting our defensive objectives,” mentions Amirul. “Of course, there are still other areas that we need to iron out but overall, it’s good progress.”
Ryaan Sanzial and Irwan Shah had similar sentiments and believe it was a good run for the boys.
"This fixture against Geylang was a good test for us and it allowed us to assess our levels of preparations," shares Irwan. "I think there are many positives takeaways from the fixture that we can build from."
“We got to apply whatever we have been practising in training,” shares Ryaan. “There were good signs of improvement but we need to do more to prepare for the opening game. We are always looking to improve every aspect of our game.”
The Stags use such friendlies to build momentum for the start of the season. Stay tuned for updates as we get #PRIMED for the 2022 campaign!