Resilient Tampines stay strong to beat champions DPMM in S.League clash of the giants
Sundram's team start fast, lose a man and rely on Izwan to ensure victory
BRUNEI DPMM 1
(Rafael Ramazotti 58)
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Billy Mehmet 4, Jordan Webb 15)
Just four days earlier, V Sundramoorthy cut a frustrated figure as he lamented his Tampines Rovers side's inability to hold on to a winning position.
Leading 1-0 with only two minutes left on the clock, a lapse in concentration by the Stags allowed Ceres La Salle to equalise in a 1-1 draw in last Tuesday's AFC Cup clash.
Last night, they were in a tougher situation in a Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League clash at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium as they found themselves a goal up but a man down against defending champions Brunei DPMM, following a second-half red card to centre-back Afiq Yunos.
This time, however, there was no repeat of a late collapse as Tampines produced a resilient display to beat the Brunei club 2-1 and maintain their winning start to the season.
The Stags moved into second spot behind surprise leaders Hougang United, two points behind but with a game in hand.
There were pivotal contributions from key Tampines players on either end of the ground, both at the start and the end of the contest, although it was an all-round display that had Sundram satisfied at the end of the 90 minutes.
"It was tough… We were under pressure in the last 15 minutes with one player sent off, but the team held on," he told The New Paper.
"We started well in the first half to take a two-goal lead but we expected them to come back strongly in the second half, which they did.
"We learnt from our mistakes (against Ceres) and we were able to run down the clock and prevent them from scoring late, which was important for us in keeping them out."
Early on, it was the Tampines attackers who proved irrepressible as they raced to a two-goal lead inside the opening 15 minutes.
First, it was Christopher van Huizen, in the starting line-up at the expense of big-name signing Jermaine Pennant, who floated in the cross for Billy Mehmet to nod home.
Before they can recover, DPMM were down by two - Jordan Webb (left) also making no mistake with his header from van Huizen's delivery.
The hosts responded just before the hour mark as Rafael Ramazotti connected with a Paulo Sergio free-kick to reduce the deficit, and the situation got even more tense for the Stags when Afiq picked up a second yellow in the 70th minute.
As the DPMM pressure mounted, it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors' resistance would crumble but goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud played a vital role to help his side secure the three points.
Twice, Azwan Ali looked destined to score but Izwan did brilliantly to keep out a header destined for the bottom corner before following up with a point-blank save in injury-time, leaving Sundram to agree that the signing of the Singapore No. 1 could prove as vital as any one of their big-name attackers.
"Right at the end, Izwan saved us with two brilliant saves," the legendary Singapore forward said. "I've said it many times that the goalkeeper is one of the most important positions in the team.
"He alone will help us get a lot of points this season and then the rest is up to the outfield players at the other end."
- DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Helmi Zambin, Yura Indera Putera, Brian McLean, Sairol Sahari (Najib Tarif 46), Rosmin Kamis, Azwan Saleh (Nur Ikhwan Othman 69), Maududi Hilmi (Shahrazen Said 46), Paulo Sergio, Azwan Ali, Rafael Ramazotti.
- TAMPINES: Izwan Mahbud, Ismadi Mukhtar, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah, Jordan Webb (Fahrudin Mustafic 75), Shahdan Sulaiman, Izzdin Shafiq, Christopher van Huizen (Jermaine Pennant 61), Fazrul Nawaz (Yasir Hanapi 67), Billy Mehmet.
- Hougang 1 Balestier 0