Monday, June 7, 2010


Tampines Rovers warmed up for their upcoming top of the table clash with Etoile by crushing the youthful Beijing Guoan Talent side 4-0 last night at their Tampines cauldron in the first part of its two matchups within three days against the league’s foreign teams.

This allowed them to head into Wednesday’s crunch game at Jalan Besar with the comfort of top spot after the French side had momentarily occupied pole position for twenty-four hours with a victory over the Eagles on Saturday night.

Stags’ coach Vorawan Chitavanich fielded the identical eleven that had surprisingly lost to the Young Lions three days earlier despite initial fears of the lack of recovery period for the elder statesmen of his team like Aleksander Duric and captain Zulkarnaen Zainal. His decision was helped partly due to the continued absence of national forward Khairul Amri and wingback Imran Sahib while Qiu Li was only fit enough for a spot on the substitutes’ bench.

The youthful Beijing side started brightly from the start and managed to threaten the Stags from a few set-piece situations but with nothing to show for.

Slowly, the more experienced heads of the Tampines players got into the game and netted their opening goal from their first real attack in the tenth minute after good combination play between Jamil Ali and Aliff Shafaein.

Jamil won the ball on the left flank and made his way into the centre before laying the ball to Aliff. The Stags’ No 19, dubbed as “The Little Master” by the media, returned Jamil with a peach of a pass that saw the former Woodlands man run through on goal before easily finishing with a low grounder past the Beijing keeper Su Boyang.

Eight minutes later, Aliff was at it again as Zahid Ahmad released the nippy playmaker down the left wing. Fortunately, the Beijing defence recovered in time to clear the centre from “The Little Master” out for a corner.

In the 20th minute, Stags keeper Hassan Sunny was called into his first real action of the night as he pulled off a wonderful one-handed save to deny Liu Teng’s point blank header after forward Li Tixiang had whipped in a good cross from the right.

Credit has to be given to the Chinese side as they continued to create opportunities in a bid to equalise before half-time and had two good chances to do so. However in both situations, they were denied by the impressive Hassan.

The first of which happened in the 40th minute. Liu Teng’s cross from the right flank was cushioned by striker Tan Tiancheng nicely into the path of rightback Yu Tianzhu, whose low shot was tipped wide by Hassan’s fingertips.

Just before the interval, a five-man move initated by Li Tixiang culminated in Yu having another golden chance at goal. This time, Hassan put his giant frame into good use as he flung himself ala Peter Schmeichel style to deny the Beijing man.

In between the two Beijing attempts, Tampines missed an opportunity of themselves as Jamil took one touch too many and the chance went begging after wonderful approach play by Duric and Zahid.

Within a minute after the break, Beijing raided the Tampines left flank and almost leveled the score but Tan just narrowly missed connecting a cross from the right wing with a half volley.

Stags hit three in twelve minutes

It was to prove costly as the Stags went two up four minutes later.

Anchorman Shukor Zailan slid Aliff through with a delicious ball down the Beijing centre. “The Little Master” shook off the attentions of defender Ma Chongchong as he took the ball in his stride before slotting past keeper Su for two nil.

Beijing coach Zheng XIaotian reacted with a double substitution in the 55th minute, bringing on Lei Tenglong and Teng Bin as he sought to find a way back into the game.

Unfortunately, the plan backfired as the Stags added a third goal within a minute of the changes.
Once again “The Little Master” was at the heart of the move as he collected a pass from Ismadi Mukhtar, cut into the middle before laying the ball on a plate for Duric to slam the ball in for 3-0.

Beijing’s night was not to get any better as the Stags took advantage of the loss of organisation in their opponents’ backline to notch a fourth goal six minutes later.

A measured pass inside his own half by Jamil was immaculately controlled by Aliff with one touch to set up Duric.

The evergreen striker had the luxury to control the ball and ward off the challenge of Su before netting his second of the night with a left foot shot that trickled into goal despite the best effort by substitute Lei on the goalline.

Though they were 4-0 down, the Talents showed desire to grab at least a consolation goal but those hopes were more than once denied by Singapore’s No 1 Hassan.

Wang Hao and substitute Teng produced a couple of decent attempts at goal after marauding runs near to the Stags’ penalty box but found Hassan in top form.

The pick of his saves came in the 85th minute after Teng mesmerized Stags’ substitute Jufri Thaha down the left and charged to the bye-line before pulling the ball back for top scorer Tan Tiancheng.

This time, Hassan’s legs came in the way of Tan’s shot as he made sure his goal remained intact.
Tampines almost scored a fifth deep into injury-time but substitute Edward Tan somehow missed a sitter after good work by Duric.

Morale booster

Stags’ coach Vorawan Chitavanich expressed delight at his team’s overall performance and agreed that it had indeed been a morale boosting win, especially coming off a defeat against the Young Lions previously.

His felt that his prematch concerns of his charges’ fitness levels was somewhat alleviated by the fact that they had the faithful home crowd behind them.

When asked of his views with regards to the performance of “The Little Master”, Vorawan commented: “After spending the last seven years with me, Aliff has definitely grown and has been able to adapt well into my game plan and make important plays for the team”.

His counterpart Zheng Xiaotian was left to rue the individual errors by his players which he concluded proved costly at the end. He said that tactical changes were made during the game but ultimately was not enough to grab any rewards from the game. He also acknowledged the brilliant display by Hassan in the Tampines’ goal.

Tampines’ focus now turns to the intriguing clash between the league’s top two teams as they do battle on Wednesday evening. If their last meeting in March can be an indication of what is to be expected, football fans can surely expect fireworks at Jalan Besar - both on and off the field.

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