Tampines' new coach Akbar wins an S.League thriller
Coach Akbar starts off post-Sundram era with a thrilling win
TAMPINES ROVERS 4
(Fazrul Nawaz 37, Jordan Webb 45, Billy Mehmet 63, Jermaine Pennant 79)
BRUNEI DPMM 3
(Azwan Ali 43, Rafael Ramazotti 57, 70)
At the end, it was a victory that could proved crucial for Tampines Rovers as they began life after V Sundramoorthy.
After delivering on his promise to play a more attacking game, Tampines coach Akbar Nawas will now be looking to find the right balance after seeing his side scramble to a 4-3 win over champions Brunei DPMM in a dramatic Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League clash at Jurong West Stadium last night.
Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet had given the hosts the lead on three different occasions, only to be pegged back by an Azwan Ali strike and a brace by Rafael Ramazotti.
But with 11 minutes left on the clock, star man Jermaine Pennant popped up with the winner to hand Tampines maximum points and see them move seven points behind leaders Albirex Niigata.
"There was so much pressure building up towards the game and it (the win) definitely takes a load off," said Akbar.
"We love to attack, but there were some really nervy moments… In the end, a 4-3 win is a positive result, but the game could have gone either way.
"We're still a work in progress and there are definitely certain parts of our game we need to look at.
"Now, we'll have to look at the positives, try and strike a balance and do even better next time around."
The hosts who drew first blood in the 37th minute when Webb latched onto an incisive pass from Fabian Kwok and squared the ball for Fazrul to finish, but DPMM levelled the scores six minutes later through a stunning curler by Azwan.
Right on the stroke of half-time, the Stags reclaimed the lead when Webb met Pennant's inch-perfect free-kick and guided his header past Wardun Yussof, only for the visitors to respond again three minutes before the hour mark when Ramazotti netted with a towering header in off the post.
For the third time in the match, Tampines edged ahead when Hafiz Abu Sujad played a clever one-two with Fazrul and slid in a cross for Mehmet to stab home from close range.
Once more, the Bruneians hit back.
A moment of hesitation by Afiq Yunos saw Paulo Sergio win possession off him and play in Ramazotti, who calmly finished past Joey Sim.
DPMM deserved plenty of praise for their resilience but, to their credit, Tampines refused to be denied and, in the 79th minute, Hafiz produced another assist as his brilliant flick released Pennant, who made no mistake in finding the bottom corner to seal the triumph.
The result was a second consecutive defeat for DPMM and their hopes of retaining the title are fading fast, but coach Steve Kean was at least satisfied his team were much improved after a 5-0 rout by Home United last time out.
The Scot said: "I'm disappointed because we saw a dramatic improvement in our attacking play, but we fell down today in terms of defending as a team. We were much better today against a very good side.
"It (retaining the title) is getting more difficult but, maybe, a new competition will come at the right time for us now and that could be in the form of the (The New Paper) League Cup (next month)."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Jermaine Pennant (Tampines Rovers)
- OTHER RESULT: Garena Young Lions 2 Home United 2
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Joey Sim, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Afiq Yunos, Jordan Webb (Ismadi Mukhtar 85), Yasir Hanapi, Fabian Kwok (Irwan Shah 82), Christopher van Huizen (Hafiz Abu Sujad 40), Jermaine Pennant, Fazrul Nawaz, Billy Mehmet.
- BRUNEI DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Aminuddin Zakwan, Yura Indera Putera, Brian McLean, Najib Tarif, Rosmin Kamis, Hendra Azam (Maududi Hilmi 61), Azwan Saleh (Shahrazen Said 73), Paulo Sergio, Azwan Ali (Helmi Zambin 80), Rafael Ramazotti.