S.League: Stags awaken

Luis Closa (pumped fist) celebrating his goal last night, giving the Stags the lead for the first time. Tampines came from behind to beat Pune FC 3-1.

TAMPINES ROVERS 3 (Noh Alam Shah 15, Luis Closa 31, 47)



Rain and lightning failed to dampen the mood at the Clementi Stadium last night.

Despite a one hour delay after the stadium's Lightning Warning System saw players being hauled off just four minutes before half-time,

Tampines Rovers stayed sharp to beat Balestier Khalsa 3-1 and reclaim top spot in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.

The champions had lost two games on the trot before last night, conceding four goals in the process to allow Brunei's DPMM FC to move to the top of the standings.

But coach Salim Moin wore a broad smile as he walked off the pitch last night.

"There is a lot of relief going back on top of the table. Hopefully we've turned the corner, but we're just taking a game at a time," he (inset) said.

"This is a message to the rest of the league that Tampines have woken up."

Balestier made the bizarre decision to swop Ridwan Jamil for Goran Ljubojevic despite the former being pencilled in for the starting line-up, effectively using up one substitute even before kick-off.

Whatever prompted Balestier to make the move, it didn't work, with Luis Closa playing a key role in rousing the Stags against the Tigers.

They took the lead in the 15th minute through a resurgent Noh Alam Shah, whose bullet header capped off a slick passing move.

The impressive Closa then stepped up.
He had already tested Zaiful Nizam in the Balestier goal twice before the Tampines opener, but the Tigers failed to heed the warning signs.



The Balestier defence again allowed the Paraguayan to get a shot off at the top of the box in the 31st minute, and this time he sent a daisy-cutter fizzing into the back of the net.

The 30-year-old was clearly in the mood and punished the visitors again in the 47th minute, firing yet another crisp shot into the bottom corner for his second and Tampines' third of the night. "Luis was fantastic. Shooting is one of his biggest assets, and he needs to continue doing this," said Salim, who will take on his former team Woodlands Wellington on Friday. "We will work on things in training and you will see a better Tampines on Friday."


This article was published on April 14 in The New Paper.

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