Needing a win to stand a chance of winning their sixth S.League title, Tampines Rovers failed to live up to their end of the bargain as they imploded and were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Harimau Muda at Jurong West Stadium last night.
Brunei DPMM's 4-0 win over Balestier Khalsa in Bandar Seri Begawan would have rendered Tampines' result inconsequential, but the Stags hardly covered themselves in glory in a highly charged encounter.
Ariff Farhan pounced at the back post off a corner that pierced the Tampines defence to give the Malaysian Under-22 side a shock sixth-minute lead.
Left back Fabian Kwok then had to be taken off after a nasty 23rd-minute collision with Annas Rahmat, which resulted in a bad cut that required stitches to his head.
Isa Halim then put his team under more pressure when he was sent off in the 34th minute for lashing out at Akhir Bahari.
However, Rodrigo Tosi provided a lifeline when he slotted in a 55th-minute penalty after Annas had handled Shaiful Esah's effort in the box.
While there were no more goals - Ilham saved from Shaiful in a 58th-minute one-on-one - there was time for two more red cards as a free-for-all nearly broke out twice following two bad challenges from Tampines players desperate to win their last match of the season.
Left back Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, who came on for Kwok, snapped at the heels of Kenny Pallraj with a tackle from the back in the 82nd minute, which resulted in the Malaysian defender being dismissed for a retaliatory shove.
As Kenny was led off the pitch, he punched and tore a hole in his team's dugout.
Zulfadli was shown a yellow for his poor tackle and was replaced five minutes later by Noh Alam Shah.
However, the former international striker lasted just one minute on the pitch after being shown the red card for a wild lunge at Ilham Amirullah and had to be restrained by Tampines staff and players.
Jamil Ali's delightful chip in added time dropped centimetres wide and the Stags had to be content with a runners-up finish.
Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy, who watched the match from the stands after he was sent off in the 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata, was visibly disappointed not to at least end the season with a win.
The 50-year-old preferred to look at the positives and said: "Credit to the boys who took the title race to the last match, after roller-coaster results in mid-season.
"DPMM are a good side and it could have gone either way. Unfortunately, results didn't go our way.
"But still, we have qualified for the AFC Cup, and that's something we can look forward to next season."
This article was first published on November 22, 2015.
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