Tampines move within one point of SPL leaders Albirex after 2-0 win over DPMM
SINGAPORE – Playing their second match in five days, Singapore Premier League (SPL) title-chasers Tampines Rovers shook off the disappointment of dropping two points against Hougang United with a comfortable 2-0 win over Brunei DPMM on Thursday.
The convincing victory at the Jalan Besar Stadium took Tampines to within one point of SPL leaders Albirex Niigata with a third of the season gone. DPMM, who arrived in Singapore only on Wednesday evening, remained seventh in the nine-team table.
Gavin Lee’s Stags also extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games, stretching back to August 2022 when they fell 4-2 to Albirex.
The last time Tampines met DPMM was in March 2020 when the Bruneian outfit won 2-0 at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium. It was also their final SPL match before the league was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Tampines’ Shah Shahiran retrospectively suspended for two matches for violent conduct, Ong Yu En was recalled to the starting line-up as a deep-lying midfielder in Lee’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation.
Second-choice goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin was also handed his first league start ahead of Syazwan Buhari, who was down with an eye infection.
After an energetic start which saw Lee’s side dominate, it was Ong who broke the deadlock in the eighth minute with a finely struck attempt from the edge of the penalty box.
A deflection left DPMM goalkeeper Haimie Nyaring rooted to the spot.
Building on the momentum, the Stags doubled their advantage just two minutes later.
Receiving a pass from left-back Glenn Kweh, captain Yasir Hanapi fired a rocket into the bottom corner, which narrowly evaded Haimie’s grasp.
DPMM coach Adrian Pennock responded to the relentless onslaught by making an early change in the 25th minute, bringing on centre-back Hanif Hamir for midfielder Hendra Azam.
While the change helped the Wasps settle into the match, Tampines could have gone further ahead as talisman Boris Kopitovic saw a pair of efforts blocked right before half-time.
Switching to their usual shape after the interval, DPMM improved their ball retention and started creating chances to threaten Ridhuan, who was largely untroubled in the first half.
As the Stags dropped their tempo and the Wasps increased theirs, DPMM midfielder Josip Balic saw his headed effort skim off the crossbar in the 68th minute.
The Bruneian outfit were handed a lifeline in the 88th minute, when Tampines substitute Syed Firdaus Hassan was adjudged to have handled the ball. But forward Andrey Voronkov skied his penalty to add to DPMM’s misery.
Pennock felt the game was lost in the first 20 minutes, adding: “In the next 70 minutes, I thought we were fantastic and we should have scored goals.
“The intensity after was much better but you can’t start the game like that.
“I had to switch the formation (back to a 3-4-1-2) because, if not, they would’ve scored six or seven.”
Lee acknowledged that there were lapses in their concentration towards the end, but felt that they executed their plan well overall.
“We created quite a few chances in front of goal and I think we could’ve been a bit more ruthless. But we just got to keep banging on the door,” he said.
Asked about the high-intensity start, he said: “You should’ve seen the players during the recovery session (after the 1-1 draw with Hougang)… that’s the kind of response and reaction we want from the boys.
“Everybody is aligned in the right direction.”
Having played all of their first round of SPL matches in Singapore, DPMM’s players have had to struggle with lengthy travelling times and being away from their families on matchdays.
Pennock’s side were visibly fatigued during a lacklustre opening 15 minutes when they struggled to match Tampines’ intensity.
Initially setting up in a 4-4-2 shape, DPMM were porous in midfield and had no answer for their opposition’s fluid exchanges; getting pulled out of position on numerous occasions.
The subsequent switch to a more familiar 3-4-1-2 system gave DPMM a better structure to recycle the ball and create chances, though Tampines’ defence held firm.
For Tampines, Lee will be pleased with his defence which kept their fourth clean sheet this season, already matching their total from the last campaign.
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