TAMPINES ROVERS 6
(Fazrul Nawaz 19, Jordan Webb 25, 48, 80, Mustafic Fahrudin 40, Jermaine Pennant 78)
GARENA YOUNG LIONS 1
(Fareez Farhan 33)
Can Tampines Rovers out together a run of wins to pip Albirex Niigata to the S.League title? On such free-scoring form, don't bet against it.
With rookie S.League coach Akbar Nawas at the helm, and a gungho attitude to boot, there seems to be a new lease of life about the Stags after his predecessor V Sundramoorthy left the post to become national football coach.
Throwing caution to the wind, Tampines have now scored 10 goals in just two games under Akbar. After posting a 4-3 win over defending champions Brunei DPMM FC last week, the Stags thrashed Garena Young Lions 6-1 at Jurong West last night.
While the predominantly under-21 team are still bottom of the S.League table, they were on a four-match unbeaten run (results after 90 minutes) and lost just 2-1 in their last match against Tampines.
But the Stags are a different preposition under Akbar and wasted no time to seize the initiative. Hafiz Sujad won a penalty in the 12th minute after being fouled by Taufiq Muqminin in the box, but Jermaine Pennant blazed the resulting spot-kick over the bar.
They were not to be denied and took the lead just seven minutes later as Fazrul Nawaz was able to beat Benjamin Bertrand from a tight angle.
It was 2-0 after 25 minutes when Yasir Hanapi and Billy Mehmet combined to set up Jordan Webb, who would then go on to grab his first hat-trick for Tampines with goals in the 48th and 80th minute.
True to form, the Young Lions did pull one back in the 33rd minute when Joey Sim, standing in for the injured Izwan Mahbud, parried Khairul Amri's shot into the path of Fareez Farhan, who tapped in his eight goal of the season.
Pennant then chalked up yet another assist to re-establish the hosts' two-goal lead when he delivered a pinpoint cross for Mustafic Fahrudin to head home in the 40th minute, before making amends for his earlier miss by converting another penalty in the 78th minute after being upended by Rusyaidi Salime.
Despite the big winning margin, Akbar demanded more from his team and said: "It was a good score-line for us today but I was not pleased with the first-half performance because it was too casual. Credit to the players for getting such a huge score-line but there are still parts of our game that we really need to look at because a quicker team could have punished us today.
"We can definitely improve on our transition, circulation of the ball and be more clinical with our chances. Defensively, we can do much better as well. They had a few chances which they missed and I feel that this is something that we can improve on."
At least with 28 points from 14 games, they can be comforted by the fact that they have narrowed the gap on league leaders Albirex Niigata to just four points, albeit having played one game more, while third-placed Home United slipped six points behind the Stags after being beaten 3-1 by Balestier Khalsa last night.
The Young Lions, on the other hand, are rooted to the cellar with just eight points from 15 games, three points behind the Tigers who have a game in hand.
Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse was understandably disappointed after the heavy defeat, but did not explain why he is persisting with a foreign goalkeeper in the national developmental side and not giving a local custodian the chance to play, especially when technical director Michel Sablon has already identified the position as a weakness.
Hesse just said: "I am not pleased with the performance of the team today. I told them after the first half that they looked like they were playing in a friendly and not in a match where points were at stake,
"For me, I think this is the worst game that we have played since the beginning of the season. We played well for the last few games but they did not bring the same level of commitment and concentration to these games and that’s why we lost by a big margin today.
"We have shown in the last month against good teams like Ceres La Salle and Home (United), that we can compete and hold them to draws. I am sure they can do this consistently but they have to be strong mentally. We have to improve and we have to play well in the next game, we cannot have a performance like today again."
TAMPINES ROVERS: Joey Sim, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Afiq Yunos, Irwan Shah, Jordan Webb, Yasir Hanapi (Izzdin Shafiq 46), Hafiz Sujad, Jermaine Pennant (Sufian Anuar 83), Fazrul Nawaz (Fabian Kwok 72), Billy Mehmet
GARENA YOUNG LIONS: Benjamin Bertrand, Rusyaidi Salime, Amirul Adli, Taufiq Muqminin (Shannon Stephen 65), Zakir Shamsudin, Fareez Farhan, Ammirul Emmran, Muhaimin Suhaimi (Ryan Syaffiq 75), Joshua Pereira, Gareth Low, Khairul Amri (Hazim Faiz 62)
<Photo credits: S.League>