S.League giants Tampines flex championship muscle
Sundram's Stags on title march as they warm up for DPMM test
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Ismadi Mukhtar 8, Mateo Roskam 50)
GEYLANG INT'L 0
V Sundramoorthy's Tampines Rovers are beginning to look like top contenders for this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League crown.
Here are the Stags' statistics in the last three league games: 270 minutes played, eight goals scored, zero conceded, nine points racked up.
Last night, they made it three wins out of three with a fuss-free 2-0 win over Geylang International at the Jurong West Stadium. The result followed 3-0 victories over Hougang United last Friday and Home United on May 17, the last match before the S.League took a break for the South-east Asia Games last month.
Tampines are now only four points behind league leaders and defending champions Warriors FC.
It was the perfect way for Sundram's side to prepare for their big clash against fellow title hopefuls, third-placed Brunei DPMM, on Saturday.
Sundram, who knows all about title-winning campaigns, having famously led the LionsXII to the Malaysian Super League crown in 2013, is pleased with his side's form.
"It's a long season and every win will help us finish strongly," he said.
"We haven't conceded in our last three games and that's a strong point for the team, but right now our focus is on one game at a time.
"DPMM have the best players from Brunei and good foreigners too, so it'll be a real battle on Saturday."
Tampines secured the win last night thanks to early goals in each half by Ismadi Mukhtar - it was the winger's first goal for over three years - and in-form striker Mateo Roskam.
But they were more dominant than the scoreline suggested, and only the heroics of Geylang's veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin ensured the Eagles did not suffer a hiding.
The 36-year-old shot-stopper rolled back the years to deny the hosts time and again, most spectacularly from Firdaus Idros' snap shot in the 33rd minute and Isa Halim's shot that seemed destined for the top corner 12 minutes from time.
Mixed in with Yazid's flying saves and Tampines' classy display was a 15-minute delay in the second half due to a failure of one of the stadium's four floodlights.
With recent reports suggesting the S.League might turn semi-professional next year, the incident seemed like a bad joke.
Geylang head coach Jorg Steinebrunner did not turn up to the post-match press conference, with the official explanation being the German had lost his voice.
His assistant, Owen Monaghan, stood in, and paid tribute to Yazid.
"Yazid's been great for us all season and some of the saves he's made, along with those tonight... were unbelievable," said the Briton.
"He's like a 22-year-old. He trains very hard along with the other goalkeepers we have and his performance tonight was just reward.
"We're lucky to have him."
In last night's other match, DPMM were held to a surprise 1-1 draw with Hougang United in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Azwan Ali put the hosts ahead in 33rd minute, before Vuk Sotirovic equalised for Hougang in the 69th minute.
- TAMPINES: Rodrigo Pacheco, Ismail Yunos, Mustafic Fahrudin, Pedrag Pocuca, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Ismadi Mukhtar (Ridhuan Muhammad 84), Isa Halim, Roberto Alviz (Fabian Kwok 86), Firdaus Idros, Rodrigo Tosi, Mateo Roskam (Noh Alam Shah 88)\
- GEYLANG: Yazid Yasin, Anaz Hadee (Mustaqim Manzur 80), Yuki Ichikawa, Kento Fukuda, Syed Thaha, Khairulnizam Jumahat (Shafeeq Faruk 73), Nor Azli Yusoff, Hafiz Nor, Tatsuro Inui, Shawal Anuar (Huzaifah Aziz 83), Jozef Kaplan
- Man of the Match: Yazid Yasin (Geylang, above)