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This is Home, Truly : Tampines Rovers 5 - 2 Young Lions

The return Home. Our Tampines Hub. It has been a tough few weeks but with The Stand encouraging us, we wanted to make sure of giving them something to be proud of.


It was also H-TWO-O day and all spectators were given some refreshing H-TWO-O packet drinks as they entered the stadium.

In the crowd, we had Singaporean TikToker Uncle Raymond lifting the crowd with his trademark dance routine with several fans joining him. A party atmosphere was brewing and hopefully, a win would enhance that even further.

In our way stood Young Lions. Yes, they might be bottom of the table and yes they might be missing some of their stars which included our very own, Joel Chew, Syahrul Sazali, and Shah Shahiran. But on their day, they can provide stiff competition as they did in our first meeting of the season. We might have won that game in April but they provided us with quite the scare.


The First Half


From the get-go, you could feel that we wanted to make a statement. Zehruddin ‘Zeko’ Mehmedovic had the first opportunity in the 3rd minute.


The free kick was taken quickly by Yasir Hanapi to Kyoga Nakamura, who played Zeko in with an impudent pass into the box. Zeko then turned on a sixpence and fired a volley towards goal, only for Young Lions keeper, Dylan Pereira, to save.


This was going to be a long afternoon for the Young Lions custodian.

He did well on a further two occasions to deny our top scorer Boris Kopitovic. But he was not going to be lucky for the third time. With a corner on 11 minutes, quick thinking from Zeko and Yasir culminated in the former playing a low cross into the box.


With the Young Lion's defence caught napping, Boris was able to steal in near the edge of the box and score with a low drive which went underneath the keeper. 18 for the season for ‘Big Bad’ Boris, and with the way this match was going and the forward thrust of his midfield supply chain, it looked as if it could be more.

5 minutes later and it was 2-0. It all started with a massive punt from Syazwan Buhari. Boris, despite the close attention of two Young Lions defenders, was able to outmuscle both in typical Boris style and charge towards the goal from the halfway line. With every stride, you could feel the whole stadium charge in anticipation ready to dispel the roar of a goal.


His Theirry Henry-esque run captivated The Stand but his shot was saved by Dylan. But it was not over. The ball then bounced off Jordan Emaviwe and fell perfectly for Taufik Suparno who smashed the ball in. Our Tampines Hub was bouncing and dancing to Taufik’s beat as he set off to celebrate in style. Maybe the presence of Uncle Raymond in the stands was the inspiration?

However, in the 35th minute, there was a spanner in the works. The Young Lions broke away down the right-hand flank with Arshad Shamim after a raking pass by Elijah. Arshad then played the ball into the path of Abdul Rasaq who slid the ball home past the disparaging dive of Syazwan. In our last meeting, we pulled off a two-goal comeback. No way it could happen against us. Could it?


Those questions were then put to bed just a minute before halftime. Irwan Shah would play a ball over the top to Boris who would make his way into the box. Again, despite the attention of a Young Lions defender, he would swat the defender away and strike on goal. Dylan would make the save but it would fall into the path of Zeko. The first shot is blocked but Zeko would have a second bite of the cherry, he sits down the defender before slotting it past Dylan for

3-1.


The Second Half


The return of Shuya Yamashita brought cheers from The Stand as he took his place in the centre of defence, replacing Amirul Haikal. The cheers nearly got to their loudest when Boris was sent racing onto goal once again just one minute into the second half, but his extravagant lob bounced off the crossbar and into touch.


The second half felt like a carbon copy of the first, with two chances coming before the next goal was eventually scored. And lo and behold, it was a magnificently crafted corner routine by Kyoga and Zeko that supplied captain Yasir Hanapi with his goal of the day in the 59th minute. Zeko played a low ball towards the edge of the box where Kyoga was. Next thing we know, Kyoga throws a dummy so good that even the admin fell for it. And right behind him was Yasir who was on hand to score. 4-1 and the game was over as a contest.

Unfortunately, there was still time for a consolation goal for Young Lions through a trademark header from Zikos Chua to make it 4-2.


But in the 78th minute, Taufik scored his second of the game with his last kick before being substituted. In his languid style, Kyoga took the ball down and drove into the heart of the Young Lions' midfield.

He spots Boris making one of his trademark runs and plays the ball through. Boris makes his way into the box, looks up and sees Taufik in space. Boris plays it across the box for Taufik to tap the ball home to make it 5-2. The great team goal rounded off an overall great day.


Reflections

A return to winning ways coincided with our return home. Of course, we would have wanted to get that W on the board earlier but it just seemed fate that it would come today. As much as we want to enjoy this victory, Head Coach Gavin Lee is always one to be wary of the bigger tests that there are to come. With the next test being league leaders Lion City Sailors in a week's time, he emphasised the need to yes, enjoy the win but to be refocused on the next task within 24 hours.


Another achievement on the board is the SPL debut of 17-year-old midfielder Ethan Pinto, who has been patient and has earned Gavin’s praise for his hard work in getting to this point. Ethan, despite his nerves, accredited his teammates for helping him through his 30-minute cameo and is hoping for more opportunities coming up. Congrats to Ethan and here’s to more success on your journey with The Stags!

As Gavin rightly points out, there are only a few Young Bucks who have yet to make their debut. In fact, it’s also noteworthy that the average of the Young Lions team was 20.7 years, while the average age of our Young Bucks on display was 20.3 years. As we have constantly reminded ourselves, when you are good enough, you are old enough.


In addition to those in action yesterday, others like Yu En and Danish Irfan are raring to go. Moreover, our Young Bucks Shah, Joel, and Syahrul from Young Lions are bound to return soon - something that everyone has been waiting for. Who knows, our Young Lions contingent might be accompanied by a few others?


We fully appreciate that The Stand understands that this season may be tumultuous and the results may not have gone our way but our initiatives in this campaign are part of a longer-term project.


The Future is Bright. The Future is Yellow.

Thanks to The Stand for always having our backs and bringing us up with your support always. Up next, a tough task against the Sailors is on the horizon.


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