Stags up for the title fight

Stags up for the title fight
Hougang United's Nurhilmi Jasni and Anaz Hadee tussling for the ball in last night's 1-1 draw with Tampines Rovers at the Clementi Stadium.

Great eastern-Yeo's S.LeaGue 2014

TAMPINES ROVERS 1 (Miljan Mrdakovic 43)

HOUGANG UNITED 1 (Geison Moura 63)

They are still not as fluid in possession nor as ruthless in attack as he would like, but rafi ali believes tampines rovers are very much alive in the Great eastern-Yeo's s.League title race this year.

The champions battled out a tough 1-1 draw with visiting Hougang United at the Clementi Stadium, making it seven points out of nine in their last three league games.

The Stags went into the break 1-0 up, but were pegged back in the second half, and Rafi said later: "These are two points dropped, definitely. There were many things that we tried that didn't work.

"We are capable of doing much more, of much better football. You can see glimpses of it, but we're just not consistent enough.

"But I think we are still in it."

With the irrepressible Ismadi Mukhtar a constant threat either down the right or through the middle, Tampines did string together a couple of scintillating moves.

But a combination of poor crossing and a lack of a killer instinct in front of goal saw the home side unable to finish off the tie.

Miljan Mrdakovic glanced home an Ismadi cross from the right wing to give the hosts the lead two minutes before the break.

But Geison Moura rescued a point for the Cheetahs with a glancing header of his own, off a long ball from leftback Lau Meng Meng in the 63rd minute.

The result helped the Stags move into second spot in the 12-team standings, three points behind league leaders DPMM.

Rafi was happy with the performance of the ever-improving Ismadi.

"He is capable of much more and I'm trying to push him. There's really no other winger in Singapore like him and he just needs that bit of self-belief, or arrogance," said the former Singapore midfielder.

"He's a late bloomer, and maybe the national coach should take a look at him."

While Rafi was left to mull how he can nudge his side forward, his counterpart Amin Nasir was pleased as punch.

Sixth-placed Hougang are nine points ahead of Balestier Khalsa in seventh, with five games remaining in the second round.


"I was worried (that Tampines was going to run away with it), they've got quality players, but we did very well to win this point away from home," said the former Singapore international.

"The fighting spirit and maturity of the boys... and the result were very encouraging. We need to be consistent, but its definitely possible to finish in the top six."

Consistency is also what Rafi is looking for.

"The players need to play football that they like, consistently. And for that I think they just need to simplify things," he said.

"If they keep things simple and enjoy the football, we'll get there."

This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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