S.League: Stags show spirit

S.League: Stags show spirit
Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League 2014 - Tampines Rovers 3 vs Warriors FC 3. Veteran Tampines Rovers Aleksandar Duric (in yellow) tussling with Warriors FC's Suria Prakash for the ball during their S.League match held at the Clementi Stadium on 8 May 2014. The Stags came back twice from behind to shock Warriors FC and draw the match 3-3

(Aleksandar Duric 52, Miljan Mrdakovic 54, Marin Vidosevic 90+4-og)

(Nicholas Velez 20, Miroslav Pejic 23-pen, Abdil Qaiyyim 90-og)

No pace, no power, no verve - and no more drive.

Tampines Rovers have had to face varied criticism this season, but if their opponents in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League think that they have cracked the code and are poised to knock the defending champions off their perch, they will need to think again.

After a shocking first half at the Clementi Stadium last night, where the Stags' faults were dragged out into the spotlight, they morphed into a different animal, with more fight, more bite and came from behind twice to draw 3-3 with a shell-shocked Warriors FC.

"There is still fight left in this team. The first half was disastrous, we were rubbish, and then we started fighting, biting," said skipper Mustafic Fahrudin.

"We're still struggling with injuries to six players, but when we get back, we can still win the title."

The Stags looked like has-beens ready to surrender their three-year hold on the S.League title from the first whistle, with Nicholas Velez and Miroslav Pejic tormenting the Tampines defence with their movement and vision.

The duo found the net in three minutes, with Velez scoring at the near post in the 20th minute, and Pejic slotting in a harshly awarded penalty three minutes later.

Alex Weaver's Warriors looked set to cruise to the finish, but Rafi Ali threw on 43-year-old Aleksandar Duric in the 41st minute, and the old warhorse changed the game.

He covered every blade of grass, but crucially, was sharp where it counted. He scored in the 52nd minute, inspiring Tampines to another - through Miljan Mrdakovic, just two minutes later.

Unfazed even by a 90th-minute Abdil Qaiyyim own goal, Tampines pressed on and equalised with the last kick of the game, with the unfortunate Marin Vidosevic slamming Matthew Abraham's effort into his own goal after the youngster was superbly released by Duric.

The points were shared, but Tampines clearly won a massive psychological battle over their old rivals.


"The boys are down, they're devastated. We put ourselves in (a winning position in the 90th minute) and then went to throw it away," said a downcast Weaver.

"We're very, very disappointed. But you have to give credit to (Tampines), they took their chances."

Starting with what looked like a back five, and three in midfield, Rafi changed to a more standard, combative 4-4-2 in the second half.

While the tactical tweak worked, the former Singapore international was more pleased with his charges.

"We're getting stuck in, and we're getting there... and they really wanted to win.

"And Aleks, he played a wonderful game and really made an impact," said Rafi, who was taking charge of just his second game as Tampines' interim coach.

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