S-League: Stags can still charge past DPMM

Looking at the S-League standings, it appears that Brunei DPMM have the title signed, sealed and delivered.

But with a mathematical chance to overtake the leaders, Tampines Rovers are not giving up the fight.

Steve Kean's table-toppers DPMM (49 points) hold a two-point advantage over five-time champions Tampines heading into the final day of the season but the Stags are not waving the white flag yet.

If DPMM lift the title, they will be the second foreign club to be crowned S-League champions after the now-defunct French side Etoile FC triumphed in 2010.

The Bruneian outfit will host Balestier Khalsa in Bandar Seri Begawan while Tampines will play Harimau Muda at the Jurong West Stadium. Both the matches will kick off at 8.15pm, adding suspense to the finale.

Tampines' captain Fahrudin Mustafic said: "Our main focus is to win this game, that's most important.

"We need to do our part to win and then hope for the best."

Added team-mate and Singapore international Shaiful Esah: "We are all excited and we'll do our best to go for a win, and hope that Balestier will do us a favour in Brunei. "They have been somewhat a bogey team for DPMM."

While DPMM will pull out all the stops against Balestier, giving free admission to spectators at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium, Balestier have been a thorn in Kean's side.

In their first two S-League meetings this year, the Tigers won 2-1 each time. And DPMM have not beaten Balestier in five matches since recording a 4-1 win over their rivals in April last year.

Last year, DPMM lost the title on the final day of the season to Warriors FC, and former Blackburn Rovers manager Kean is determined not to let the crown slip through his fingers this time.

The Englishman said: "We have to win and not expect Tampines to lose or draw.

"We are confident but we expect a tough and physical game."

But Kean's job will be made harder by a Balestier team eager to seal third place in the table.

Said goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam: "Actually, we want to get a great win over there (in Brunei) because we are aiming to finish in third place, and at the same time help Tampines (to win the title)."

Although DPMM led the title race for most of the way, the Stags mounted a late assault when, at one point in May, V. Sundramoorthy's men were lying seventh.

Shaiful said: "Before the break in June, people were already writing us off. But we prevailed and to be in this position at the end and fighting for the title, we are proud that we did not stop fighting."

Veteran midfielder Isa Halim added: "Anything can happen. Even though we might not be able to control the outcome, but we still want to end the season on a high note."

The Tampines camp have another motivation - to win the title to give former chairman Teo Hock Seng the perfect farewell gift.

Teo, at the helm since 2000, stepped down earlier this month.

Mustafic said: "It'll be a great gift for Mr Teo. He believes in us and his heart is always with us."


This article was first published on November 21, 2015.
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