Following our defeat to bitter rivals, Lion City Sailors in our last fixture, Our Stags knew that they needed to be better this time around. A return to winning ways would have been ideal for Tampines Rovers, especially before the international break.
Yet, we were coming up against Tanjong Pagar United, who have maintained their brilliant start to the season and memory of our Round 1 encounter was still fresh in Our Stags’ minds. After all, the Jaguars managed to claw back and salvage a 3-3 draw in our first encounter with them at Our Tampines Hub.
It was never going to be easy going up against a Jaguars side and we knew we had to be giving it our all to get the result we wanted.
The Match Report
A Blitzkrieg of Goals is probably the way to sum up the half.
Our quest to keep our first clean sheet of the season eluded us once again after Reo Nishiguchi scored in the 5th minute. Our backline was frustrated that Reo had managed to convert through a one time effort from the edge of the box but they knew they couldn’t dwell on mistakes. They dusted themselves off and with more than 85 minutes left to play, continued with the game.
Unfortunately, some 16 minutes later, we conceded again. Rusyaidi Salime’s effort managed to slip through our defence and into the back of the net to make it 2-0 to Tanjong Pagar. It wasn’t looking good for us and Our Stags knew that they needed to respond immediately. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long for them to duly deliver.
A minute after conceding, Tampines Rovers managed to capitalize on some scrappy defending by the Jaguars. Firdaus Kasman pounced on a miskicked clearance to reduce the deficit to one goal. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals but it was an important one. This marked Firdaus’s second goal of the campaign but he had little time to celebrate as Our Stags rushed back to assume their kickoff positions - we were still trailing the Jaguars and the scoreline read 2-1 in their favour.
Ten minutes later, tragedy struck once again and it was Reo Nishiguchi who buried the Jaguars’ third and his second of the evening. The goal knocked the wind out of us but we weren’t about to give up trying.
In the 36th minute, we finally broke through again. This time, it was none other than our Serbian ace, Zehrudin “Zeko” Mehmedović, who stepped up. Near the edge of the box, he guided his shot into the far corner of the goal, well past Zharfan Rohaizad, who was rooted to his spot. This was Zeko’s third goal of the campaign and Our Stags knew that they had a fighting chance to stage another comeback.
However, Tanjong Pagar United were on top of their game and two minutes later, Shodai Nishikawa headed the Jaguars’ fourth goal to make it 4-2 to Tanjong Pagar. Half time couldn’t come any sooner for Our Stags as they needed to regroup.
When the second half began, Our Stags start to mount increasing offensives. However, they just couldn’t seem to find any luck with converting their several chances.
Boris Kopitović was extremely unlucky to not have scored this fixture. The Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper was beat in the 63rd minute after fumbling his attempt at catching Boris' shot on goal, but it also rolled away from our towering Montenegrin, whose outstretched leg was mere inches away. The slightest of contact would have seen the ball end up in the back of the net. It was a similar tale in the 71st minute when Tanjong Pagar United kept Boris’s shot out with a goal line clearance. Boris was clearly looking to add to his tally and extend his lead as the league’s top scorer but he was once again denied.
Despite a series of near chances, we ended the game in defeat - certainly not the outcome we wanted before the international break.
We certainly left it too late against Tanjong Pagar United and we will work on using the international break to improve on our weaknesses.
A club such as ours boasts a young squad that has immense potential. These are lessons that will surely shape our crop of players. However, at the same time, Tampines Rovers is a club that holds itself to high standards. With a rich history of success, these results are unacceptable and Our Stags are reeling from yesterday's defeat. However, we are down, but certainly not out.
Nevertheless, as we work to become better, we want to thank The Stand for their steadfast support, which we never take for granted. We will continue to strive for excellence and we will put in the work needed to reach greater heights.