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The East Is Yellow: Geylang International 2 - 3 Tampines Rovers

Boris Leads Scoring Charts, Kyoga Leads Assists, and The East Is Yellow

After a two week hiatus due to the international break, Tampines Rovers finally returned to Singapore Premier League action. Yet, it wasn't a break by any stretch of the imagination. We had 5 Stags, including Shah Shahiran, who were called up to the national team for the Tri-Nation Series. Taufik Suparno and Shah made their debuts during the friendlies while Chris van Huizen added to his 4 international caps. Syzwan Buhari and Ryaan Sanizal were also called up and immensely benefited from training with the national team. Of course, the rest of the squad worked just as hard the past two weeks, Priming themselves to pick up from where they last left off.


Many expected the Stags to maintain their momentum following their 7-1 victory over the Stags but it was the Eastern Derby that awaited Tampines Rovers, and league form mattered little when rivals clash.


Whenever the Stags face Geylang International, tensions are going to fly high. After all, this rivalry stretches decades and the animosity between the sides runs deep.


As the referee blew his first whistle, the battle between the sides ensued and one question was etched on the minds of those in attendance - who would emerge as Kings of The East?


Match Report


The First Half


After an intense opening few minutes, the deadlock was finally broken through but it was Geylang who drew first blood. Šime Žužul broke through the Tampines defence and executed a well-placed finish into the bottom left corner. 9 minutes in, the Eagles led 1-0.

However, that lead only lasted 3 minutes. 'Seizing your opportunities' was the central theme during our previous fixture, and that continued in this game. Following a rather careless lobbed pass by the Eagles custodian Zaiful Nizam to Faizal Roslan in the Geylang penalty box, 'Big Bad' Boris Kopitović wasted no time in pressing the Geylang central defender in the penalty box.


Boris managed to knick the ball away from Faizal, who immediately extended his leg to regain possession but his challenge clipped the ankles of the towering Montenegrin and the referee rightfully pointed to the penalty spot. Boris stepped up to take the spot-kick and sent veteran keeper Zaiful the wrong way to equalize for the Stags. 1-1, Game on.


Both sides were tussling for the lead and then, at the half-hour mark, the Eagles broke through. Geylang restored their lead through a rocket of a shot by Khairul Hairie. It may have been 2-1 to the Eagles but with two-thirds of the match to play for, the Stags knew if they dug deep, they could come away with the victory.

As expected, tensions flared up towards the end of the first half as both teams wanted to get the win over the other. It may have remained 2-1 at the break but both sides knew that the game was still for the taking and players needed to step up to seize the win.


The Second Half


It was pretty much the same once the second half commenced with both teams piling on the pressure. With wild tackles and challenges throughout the game, you would think that someone was going to see red. In the 55th minute, after a brash challenge against Chris, Ahmad Syahir picked up his second yellow card of the evening and was given his marching orders.


Down to 10 men, the Eagles were going to try their best to hold onto their slim lead but the Stags upped the intensity and took advantage of the circumstance presented to them. Tampines Rovers kept on knocking at Geylang's door and it was only a matter of time before they found that equaliser. Still, someone needed to step up and deliver the Stags' second goal.


Who better than a player who had a history with both teams?

Our midfield maestro Kyoga Nakamura drilled a low-driven cross that whizzed past the Geylang defence and found an unmarked Chris van Huizen near the six-yard box. The former Geylang International winger duly buried his shot past Zaiful Nizam and into the back of the net in the 66th minute. He may have been a former Eagle, but he reminded everyone where his heart had always belonged, pointing to the Tampines Rovers badge. After all, Chris began his professional career at Tampines Rovers and had another spell with the Stags in 2016. We are glad to see Chris score his first goal of the campaign, an important one that helped levelled the scores once again: 2-2.


And so, the hunt for three points entered into the final stages. The Stags increased their attacking movements, looking for that critical third goal that would ensure victory while also preventing Geylang from snatching a third of their own. After countless attempts, it was going to take a moment of real magic to clinch three points.


It was none other than our own 'Big Bad' Boris who once again stepped up to the plate. Kyoga found the striker who had space near the edge of the box and, similar to his opening goal against Hougang, he immediately unleashed a scintillating finesse shot that curled past Zaiful Nizam and into the back of the net. Cue Boris getting a hero's welcome among The Stand.

As the referee blew his final whistle, the Stags emerged as 3-2 victors in a heated contest.


Reflections


The win leaves Tampines Rovers with 7 points, only 4 points away from Tanjong Pagar United who sit at the top of the table. With a game in hand, the Stags will look to reduce the gap between themselves and the top.

It's all Stags leading the stat charts, as, with two assists this game, Kyoga Nakamura continues helming the SPL Assist Charts with 6 assists to his name. Kyoga has been outstanding for the Stags this season and we know he will do whatever it takes to become even better.


The 3-2 victory also sees Boris jointly lead the SPL goal scoring charts after his brace. Boris has previously revealed that he wanted to win the Golden Boot this season after it narrowly eluded him the past two years. Against Geylang, Boris felt the team did well to overcome a difficult first half to claim the win.

"In the first half, we lost 2-1 and our Head Coach Gavin [Lee] motivated us to push on in the second half and win every ball," shares the Montenegrin. "In the second half, we scored two brilliant goals and I think we deserved the win."


The support shown by The Stand in attendance was absolutely terrific and Boris felt that this was a key factor in their win. "The fans were absolutely terrific and I am so grateful for them supporting the team till the very last minute," he mentions. "Thank you so much."


It was also a first full debut for Syed Firdaus Hassan who had a decent first-half showing against the Eagles before Firdaus Kasman replaced him in the second half. Like Chris, veteran midfielder Firdaus reminded his former employers that his roots lie within Tampines through and through.


One player that was given a difficult task today was Ryaan Sanizal, who had to deal with Šime Žužul. The Croatian has previously given a tough time to some veteran defenders and Ryaan knew he had to be on top of his game to deal with the Croatian. Yet, the 19-year-old was emboldened by his time with the national team.

"My stint with the national team has motivated me to work even harder and it has really opened me to new perspectives," shares Ryaan. "Against Geylang, I took some of the lessons I learned from my time training with the National Team but we came away with the victory because we stuck to the game plan and everyone did well."

Our other Young Bucks were also key to securing victory. With the match drawing to a close, the Stags needed fresh bodies capable of helping them see out this victory. With a slender lead, we sent 19-year-old Andrew Aw and 17-year-old Adam Reefdy who have excelled for us this season. Both defenders helped the Stags in the dying embers. Fellow substitutes Amirul Haikal and Marc Ryan Tan also did well after coming on, injecting fresh pace to keep the Eagles on their toes.

Three more Eastern Derby fixtures will be played in the coming months but as things stand, and as Ryaan aptly puts it, "it's safe to say that the East is Yellow."

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