Just as the gates to Our Tampines Hub were raised at 4:30 pm, thunder rumbled through the air. The lightning warning system signalled that the mouthwatering fixture was going to experience a delay. Soon the rain poured, confirming the match's temporary postponement. Yet, the inclement weather was a signal of the tense fixture that was about to ensue.
Our Round 1 fixture was marred by controversy and missed chances but instead of dwelling on the past, Our Stags used that experience to fuel their adrenaline for this matchup. As the skies cleared up, Our Stags stepped onto the pitch, knowing all too well that they had to be on their best against the Sailors.
As the referee blew his whistle, swords were drawn and the battle at Our Tampines Hub commenced.
The Match Report
As one would expect from such a high profile fixture, it was going to be difficult for either side to break the deadlock. TheSailors came close to scoring in the 23rd minute through Gabriel Quak but Our Custodian Syazwan Buhari denied his close-range effort with ease. A minute later, Syazwan kept out another close-range effort by Song Ui-young.
Our front line was peppering the Lion City Sailors' defence with multiple offensive movements. Our Stags were playing some beautiful football, daring to express themselves when the rest of the league have shuddered against the reigning champions. The Sailors were skimming through by the skin of their teeth as Our Stags narrowly missed their shots.
Yet, despite several efforts to clinch the lead, and against the flow of play, the Sailors struck first. In the 40th minute, Gabriel Quak managed to convert his chance and gift Lion City Sailors a 1-0 lead. Our quest to keep a clean sheet continues but everyone in attendance knew that our defence was putting up a tough fight before and after the Gabriel’sgoal.
As the referee called an end to the first-half proceedings, it was time for the Stags to dig deep and forge ahead.
The restart saw Our Stags continue to pile on the pressure and our towering Montenegrin Boris Kopitovic, came close to scoring from yet another set-piece,
However, despite our efforts, the Sailors added a second goal minutes later through Maxime Lestienne. We trailed 2-0 to the Sailors but The Stand continued to stand behind the team as Our Stags did not let up their efforts.
Two quickfire goals from Song Ui-young and Haiqal Pashia saw us losing 4-0 by the 71st minute and while the scoreline did deject the masses, The Stand willed the team on. Many fans of other teams would have left the stadium early but Tampines Rovers is a special club with an even more special set of supporters, who continued to cheer with all their combined might.
Despite our efforts to stage a comeback, as we have expertly done so in previous fixtures this season, we simply could not convert in the final third. As the referee blew his final whistle, the scoreline read 4-0 and it stung that we suffered defeat to our bitter rivals.
Even though the results did not go our way yesterday, Our Captain Yasir Hanapi believes that it is important to remember that this is a team that is still developing.
"It was a tough game yesterday," explains Yasir. "We are a work in progress and with every game, we can only get better. Because there were times or most of the time we dominated the game. But individual errors lead to us conceding the goals. But that's football and I believe we will learn from this and improve from here."
Similarly, Our Head Coach Gavin Lee believes that there is a lot to take away from the defeat.
"It was certainly a tough result to take but there were certainly positives from the match to takeaway," mentions Gavin. "We did well in the build-up and we were just missing the final connections in the final third. There were moments where we were definitely not good enough but we will continue the work to get it right."
Crucially, Gavin believes that the team will continue to improve and with plenty of games remaining, Our Stags will certainly iron out certain issues.
"It’s only Game 9 and the finish line is after Matchday 28, so it’s far from the end. As long as there’s a possibility, we will not stop trying and with the continuous support of The Stand, anything is possible."
We thank everyone for attending yesterday's fixture and as Our beloved Head Coach has rightfully pointed out, we could not have forged ahead without your support.