S.League: Stags leave it late

S.League: Stags leave it late

It is hardly a secret - speed is the Kryptonite of the ageing Tampines Rovers.

They may have been the Supermen of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, virtually cruising to the title in the last three editions but, against a Home United side blessed with an abundance of fleet-footed footballers, most expected the Stags to be taken apart at Bishan Stadium last night.

Blessed with power and guile, Home are the best-equipped local outfit to dismantle a Tampines team who have yet to find their feet. But the Stags turned in their best showing in three games under interim coach Rafi Ali. Still, they managed only a 2-2 draw.

"In the first game, I could see that there were nerves - that tremendous pressure to not lose, but we are progressing," said Rafi, who has led Tampines to three consecutive draws, with Albirex Niigata, Warriors FC, and now, Home.

"(Against Home) we looked better, had more control, but we need to kill teams off." Not for the first time, Tampines made things difficult for themselves.

Defender Abdil Qaiyyim bundled in a Shahdan Sulaiman corner in the 53rd minute to give Tampines the lead but, given the many goal-scoring chances they created, they should have been a few goals in front by then.

Miljan Mrdakovic was guilty of missing several opportunities fashioned by an efficient Stags midfield that displayed an uncanny ability to go from defence to attack in a handful of passes.

However, the profligacy of Mrdakovic and Aleksandar Duric, and good goalkeeping from Home custodian Shahril Jantan, kept the hosts in the game.

Then it fell apart.

The Stags conceded two goals within a space of eight frantic minutes.

The first was a clinical volley by Kwon Dakyung, that came immediately after Tampines made a substitution while defending a free-kick in the 75th minute.

When former Stag Qiu Li rifled in a bullet of a shot from a tight angle in the 83rd minute, Home seemed to have clinched the three points.

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