WOODLANDS WELLINGTON 3 (Moon Soon Ho 40, Chang Jo Yoon 57, Shariff Allapitchay 81)TAMPINES ROVERS 3 (Aleksandar Duric 18, Mustafic Fahrudin 45-pen, Jamil Ali 66)
SINGAPORE - Who's laughing now?
Woodlands Wellington coach Salim Moin caused a few guffaws and raised more than a few eyebrows in pre-season when he targeted a top-three finish for his team.
After all, the Rams had finished bottom of the S-League in the past three seasons. But on Thursday night at the Woodlands Stadium, Salim's charges matched the defending champions and runaway league leaders Tampines Rovers in their Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League clash.
The Rams came back from losing positions three times to draw 3-3 and deserved the point which practically secured a topsix finish.
That would leave them in the top half of the 12-team league, where they will compete against the top sides when the league splits into two halves for its final round next month.
Only eighth-placed Harimau Muda B can catch Woodlands on points, although they would have to score an improbable 10 goals and win their next two games, to overtake Woodlands on goal difference.
A beaming Salim said after the match: "We wanted to be the spoilers and stop Tampines from being the runaway champions, and we did it.
"I'm very proud of the performance of my team. I've always believed in them this season and they've believed in me.
"Tonight, they were down three times but kept coming back. They definitely deserve praise."
Tampines' old warhorse Aleksandar Duric opened the scoring in the 18th minute, latching on to a superb pass from Khairul Amri before smashing the ball home from inside the area.
But Moon Soon Ho equalised five minutes before the break with a clever finish off Chang Jo Yoon's shot. Just before halftime, Mustafic Fahrudin restored Tampines' lead from the penalty spot.
Woodlands, however, did not give up and levelled again in the 57th minute, after Chang cleverly rolled the ball under a fiveman wall to score from a free-kick.
The Stags then edged themselves ahead a third time when Jamil Ali pounced on a loose ball after Duric's effort was parried by Rams' shot-stopper Yazid Yasin.
But a blunder by Tampines goalkeeper Andre Martins at a corner in the 81st minute presented Woodlands a third equaliser, with the ball ending up in the back of the net off Shariff Allapitchay's back.
Stags coach Tay Peng Kee was not happy with his goalkeeper's clanger, and was critical of his side's performance.
"I think we played very badly, to be honest," he said. "Our defence played like schoolboys and it was a very uncharacteristic mistake by our goalkeeper.
"Credit to Woodlands - they came out and attacked us, and I think they wanted the win more than us.
"But there was a bit of complacency from us, and we will work on our concentration and tactical awareness in defending before our next match."
In Thursday night's other match, Warriors FC won their second game on the trot for the first time this season, after beating Brunei DPMM 3-1 at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
Two goals from Mislav Karoglan (31st and 53rd minutes) and a strike from Shimpei Sakurada (28th) were enough to see off the visitors, who scored through Tales dos Santos in the 34th minute.
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