SPL 2022: Sailors secure controversial 1-0 win over spirited Tampines

Kim Shin Wook’s Panenka penalty in the 54th minute was the difference between the two sides, as Tampines were left to rue missed chances with two second-half goals ruled out for offside

Kim Shin-wook celebrates his goal after putting Lion City Sailors in front from the penalty spot. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Singapore, 14 March 2022 - In a Sunday evening marred by controversy with the league’s officiating standards called into question, Lion City Sailors withstood an inspired Tampines Rovers performance to come away with a narrow victory at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

With the win, the Sailors move to within one point of league-leaders Tanjong Pagar United, and level on points with title rivals Albirex Niigata (S) but behind on goal difference in third place.

Sailors manager Kim Do-Hoon was proud of the effort from his players after a ‘tough week’ following the defeat to Geylang International in Matchweek 2.

Lion City Sailors' Uiyong Song (left) does battle in the middle of the park with Tampines Rovers' Kyoga Nakamura. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

“I would say it is a well-deserved victory. I want to congratulate my boys who played for their teammates who weren’t with us today,” he said.

Coach Kim rang in the changes with key players Faris Ramli, 29, Tajeli Salamat, 28, Anumanthan Kumar, 27, who all started last week, absent from the matchday squad.

Defender Amirul Adli, 26, replaced the suspended Pedro Henrique, 29, whilst Brazilian talisman Diego Lopes, 27, and Korean forward Kim Shin Wook, 33, both returned to the starting lineup.

The Stags made one change from last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Balestier Khalsa, as experienced left-back Irwan Shah, 33, came in for Amirul Haikal, 22. New signings Ong Yu En, 18, as well as Christopher van Huizen, 29, both continued in their rebranded positions in centre-midfield and at right-back respectively.

Tampines Rovers captain Yasir Hanapi (left) closes down Uiyong Song in the Singapore Premier League match at Jalan Besar Stadium. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Tampines’ Blistering Start

The away side began on the front foot, dominating possession from kick-off. They nearly took the lead in the sixth minute when Montenegrin forward Boris Kopitovic slipped the ball past Sailors custodian Hassan Sunny, only for his shot to agonisingly trickle against the post.

Just minutes later, Tampines winger Taufik Suparno was put through on goal by captain Yasir Hanapi, the former denied an opener by an outstretched Hassan Sunny.

The Sailors’ nervy start was epitomised by a stray pass out of play by captain Hariss Harun, feeling the heat from Tampines’ organised high-press.

Tampines took advantage of their momentum to pile on the pressure, and almost took the lead with a flurry of chances from the 20th minute mark.

Christopher James Van Huizen of Tampines Rovers skips past Iqram Rifqi in the Singapore Premier League match at Jalan Besar Stadium. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Yasir Hanapi’s shot was cleared off the line by Sailors defender Amirul Adli before Boris Kopitovic glanced a point-blank header in the six-yard box wide of the post.

Kopitovic had the chance to make amends at the half-hour mark but scuffed a shot over the bar after neat combination play from right-back van Huizen and playmaker Zehrudin Mehmedovic down the right flank.

The away side thought they had a penalty in the 34th minute when an onrushing Hassan Sunny clattered into Taufik Suparno on the left edge of the penalty box, but replays showed the 26-year-old failed to beat the offside trap.

Despite the Rovers’ encouraging first half display, goals decide the outcome of football matches, and Tampines were made to pay for their missed opportunities in the next 45 minutes.

Sailors' Gabriel Quak in possession of the ball as Tampines Rovers' Amirul Haikal (right) and Marc Ryan Tan look on. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Reinvigorated Sailors in the Second Half

The Sailors came out flying after the interval, as if bewitched by the enchanting calls from the sirens. Instead of being lured to destruction, the home side remained focused and went in search of the opener.

A rare display of intensity from the home side in the 47th minute saw Diego Lopes win the ball off Tampines midfielder Kyoga Nakamura, setting himself up for a well-struck shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari reacted just in time to parry Lopes’ effort out for a corner. But just seven minutes later, the Sailors would eventually make the breakthrough.

Kim Shin-wook moments before taking the penalty that put Lion City Sailors in front at Jalan Besar Stadium. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Winger Haiqal Pashia’s marauding run down the left flank was stopped by van Huizen’s tackle in the penalty box, and referee Jansen Foo decided to point to the spot. In retrospect, it looked like a soft penalty as the Tampines right-back seemed to make contact with the ball.

Up stepped 1.98m-tall striker Kim Shin Wook, who took his time with a meticulously long run-up, before dispatching an icy-cool Panenka penalty past Syazwan Buhari to give the Sailors the lead.

Buoyed by the goal, the Sailors almost doubled their advantage when Kim Shin Wook was slipped through this time by midfielder Song Ui-Young, but the former’s snapshot rolled past the wrong side of the post.

Tampines Rovers' Boris Kopitovic lets fly a shot from inside the penalty box. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Controversial Disallowed Goals

Just after the hour mark, Rovers coach Gavin Lee made a double change, introducing midfielder Firdaus Kasman and young fullback Adam Reefdy for Ong Yu En and Taufik Suparno.

This meant van Huizen reverted to his natural position as a right-winger, with Adam Reefdy tucking in at right-back behind him.

The tactical changes nearly reaped immediate reward, when van Huizen’s whipped cross was palmed away by Hassan Sunny, before substitute Firdaus Kasman fired a half-volley past the Sailors goalkeeper into the net.

The goal was eventually ruled out for offside with captain Yasir Hanapi deemed to have impeded Hassan Sunny from an offside position when Firdaus struck the ball. However, replays showed Yasir did not interfere with play as he visibly gave Hassan enough space to dive for the ball.

Tampines Rovers' Zehrudin Mehmedovic does battle with Shahdan Sulaiman of Lion City Sailors. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

The dismay for the Yellow Knights, Tampines’ hardcore fan group, was compounded shortly after.

An exquisite chipped through ball from Kyoga Nakamura found its way to Zehrudin Mehmedovic, before the Serbian unleashed a spectacular bicycle-kick which nestled into the back of the net. But the linesman’s flag was raised again.

On review, it was impossible to tell from the camera angle whether Mehmedovic was in line with the last defender. As the SPL does not have the technology of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the benefit of doubt could have been given to the attacking team in this situation.

In the 76th minute, Diego Lopes lunged recklessly towards substitute Adam Reefdy challenging for a loose ball and was lucky to escape with a yellow card.

Just minutes later, Lopes proceeded to tug onto Yasir Hanapi’s shirt, eventually bringing him down on a Tampines attack, yet referee Jansen Foo waved play on. The Tampines captain had to be brought off thereafter with a suspected dislocated shoulder.

The away side pressed on for the equaliser, but the Sailors held firm and walked away with their first clean sheet of the season.

No way through for Tampines Rovers' Taufik Suparno. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Kim Do-Hoon: “Luck is a big part of the beautiful game”

Sailors manager Kim Do-Hoon was fully aware of their lacklustre first-half performance despite the win.

“We need to play better football from minute one. It’s an area we want to improve, especially the timing and positioning of the press. I’ll sit down and speak with the boys after my analysis. We want to fix this,” he said.

When quizzed about the controversial officiating, Kim said: “I will take the luck today. I don’t make the decisions. It’s the referee and the linesmen who do. If they say it’s offside, it’s offside. If they say it’s a goal, it’s a goal.”

“Luck is a big part of the beautiful game,” coach Kim added.

Tampines manager Gavin Lee was pleased with his side’s showing despite the defeat.

“I’m massively proud of the boys’ performance. We controlled the game in the manner we planned for. We maintained our thinking for 90 minutes and that was impressive. There is a lot to build from and we will go again,” he said.

Both teams will play their next SPL fixture this Friday (18 Mar). The Sailors face last season’s runners-up Albirex at the Jurong East Stadium, whilst Tampines play AFC-Cup compatriots Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub. The pair of matches will kick-off simultaneously at 7.45pm.

Writer’s Assessment

The Sailors followed up an abject performance away to Geylang International with another poor first half display this weekend. Questions have to be asked about complacency setting into the team after the high of winning their first piece of silverware last season.

Build-up play has been slow and static, with reliance on individual brilliance to create chances rather than patterns of play. Recent performances have been a far cry from how well-oiled the Sailors looked when they closed out the 2021 season, thumping Tampines 6-1, Geylang 3-0, and Balestier 4-1 to clinch the title in style.

With the AFC Champions League group stage matches on the horizon next month, Kim Do-Hoon will have to show greater tactical nous to allow this group of talented players to fulifll their maximum potential on Asia’s biggest stage.

Kyoga Nakamura and Yu En Ong in action for Tampines Rovers at Jalan Besar Stadium. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG

Tampines on the other hand must take heart from a brave performance against the Champions despite the defeat. The Stags are planning for the long term with a youthful squad, with Shuya Yamashita and Ong Yu En joining the ranks of existing under-23 players including Ryaan Sanizal, Amirul Haikal, Iman Hakim, Marc Ryan Tan, Irfan Najeeb and Adam Reefdy.

Coach Gavin set-up in a flexible narrow 4-2-3-1 shape, with van Huizen deployed at right-back and Ong Yu En, who played as a wide midfielder for Albirex last season, utilised in the centre beside Kyoga Nakumura in the midfield pivot. Yu En displayed high footballing IQ, showing great spatial awareness with nifty turns and smart positioning despite being played in an unfamiliar position; one to watch for the future.

With short passing distances and good attacking spacing amongst players, Tampines were able to create chances consistently by playing through Sailors’ defensive lines. Should they keep this up, we could see Tampines gradually return to the well-drilled attacking team that narrowly lost out on the 2020 SPL title to Albirex.

AIA Singapore Premier League 2022

Other Gameweek 3 Results

Hougang United 3-2 Geylang International Fri, 11 Mar 2022, Hougang Stadium

Young Lions 0-5 Albirex Niigata (S) Sat, 12 Mar 2022, Jalan Besar Stadium

Balestier Khalsa 3-5 Tanjong Pagar United Sat, 12 Mar 2022, Toa Payoh Stadium

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