Goals from Yasir Hanapi and Boris Kopitovic guide Stags to eastern derby double over Geylang International
Boris Kopitovic of Tampines Rovers celebrates his goal in the eastern derby against Geylang International. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
Singapore, 19 June 2022 - After a long international break, the AIA Singapore Premier League kicked off with an absolute classic in the eastern derby match between Tampines Rovers and Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub.
The last time these two teams played, we witnessed a Boris Kopitovic masterclass as his winner from outside the box gave the Stags a 3-2 win.
Gavin Lee, the coach of Tampines Rovers, shared his views before the game on how he used the time off to work on the team’s defensive approach with the Stags not being able to keep a clean sheet throughout the season so far.
Noor Ali, the coach of Geylang International, emphasised the need for his Eagles to end their nine-game winless streak. They would be hoping their new loan signing in Tajeli Salamat from Lion City Sailors would be just the spark they need.
The home side started with a star-studded bench with Gavin Lee resting key players in the form of Yasir Hanapi, Taufik Suparno and Christopher Van Huizen while adopting a youthful approach in his starting eleven by introducing players like Ong Yu En, Andrew Aw and Adam Reefdy into the frame.
Tampines Rovers's Japanese maestro Kyoga Nakamura bossing the midfield for his side in the eastern derby against Geylang International. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
Geylang’s standout in their starting eleven sees Tajeli adopting his favourable right-back position with Sime Zuzul, hoping to get amongst the goals alongside Vincent Bezecourt.
It was a cagey affair in the first 10 minutes, with Geylang putting most of the pressure on Tampines with their attacks from the right-hand side. Tajeli, the centre of attention with his tenacious tackling and overlapping runs from the right-back position, was giving the Eagles additional attacking support but to no avail as they could not find a way past the stubborn Stags.
Ong Yu En sadly was substituted early in the 16th minute after a clash with his teammate, which saw Yasir Hanapi coming into the game fresh from his recovery from Covid.
No way through for Geylang's Sime Zuzul, who was kept at arm's length in the eastern derby. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
Tampines Rover should be thanking their goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari, who was in fine form, saving goal-scoring shots from Sime Zuzul, Vincent Bezecourt and Hazzuwan Halim.
The game showed its fiery nature with Zehrudin Medmedovic getting the first yellow card of the game after a reckless sliding tackle on Bezecourt in the 23rd minute.
The deadlock was broken in the 33rd minute by their super-sub, Yasir Hanapi, with a well-taken volley following a delightful cross by Mehmedovic from the left flank. There was a question of offside, but referee Jansen Foo pointed to the centre circle, 1-0 to the Stags against the run of play.
Yasir Hanapi celebrates his opening goal for Tampines Rovers in the match against Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
The end of the first half saw Tampines taking the lead with their only shot on target, whilst Geylang failed to put away any out of their five attempts.
Geylang introduced Ahmad Syahir for Khairul Hairie at the start of the second half, which saw Faizal Roslan taking up Tajeli’s right-back position. Tajeli moved into a right midfield position with Hazzuwan swapping flanks to the left.
This gave Geylang a chance to start the second half the same way they did the first but with even more intense high press.
Geylang International's Huzaifah Abdul Aziz (number 11) was sent off for a second bookable offence. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
The change in tactics nearly paid dividends in the 58th minute when Tajeli was played through by Bezecourt down the right flank. Unfortunately, the loanee couldn’t deliver a better ball into the box for the likes of Sime Zuzul.
Tampines did not let that deter their chances on goal as they took every opportunity they had on the counter but failed to make Zaiful Nizam work with their chances from Nakamura and Kopitovic failing to hit the target.
Gavin Lee felt a need for pace on the wings and chose to bring on Christopher Van Huizen for Andrew Aw as part of a double substitution in the 64 th minute. The other substitution saw Ryaan Sanizal for Adam Reefdy.
Battle of the titans as Tampines Rovers' Boris Kopitovic (yellow) holds off a challenge from Geylang International's Rio Sakuma. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
Van Huizen, a former Eagle, used his fresh pace on the right-hand side to good use as he was a nightmare to handle for Ahmad Syahir. However, the final product was left to be desired, with his two attempts on goal sailing over the bar.
The game took a nasty turn in the 83 rd minute when Huzaifah Aziz was given his marching orders following a second bookable offence following a reckless clash on Van Huizen that saw the Tampines number 22 motionless on the ground.
Following quick medical attention, Van Huizen was seen on his feet and was eager to get on the pitch.
Tampines Rovers's Mehmedovic escapes the attentions of his markers as he weaves his way through midfield. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
In the very next piece of the action, the right wing-back caught the Geylang defence napping, intercepted a pass from Rio Sakuma, and delivered a low cross for Boris Kopitovic. The latter had time to control and find the top right-hand corner of Zaiful Nazim’s goal to make it 2-0 for the home team.
Kopitovic’s thirteenth of the season looks to have secured Gavin Lee’s side the win. Syazwan Buhari was a man on a mission trying to make sure that he could achieve the one stat that
has eluded the Stags this season – the clean sheet.
They were given a late scare in the final minute of regulation time when the swerve on Vincent Bezecourt’s freekick caught Buhari by surprise. Still, the keeper wearing number 24 was able to punch it away from the goal, and following a scramble in the box, Tezuka blasted the ball over the bar much to relieve the Tampines Rovers side.
Sime Zuzul (right) closely marked and pressed by the Tampines Rovers' rearguard. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
Just like in every derby, there were a few clashes in between plays that were very much expected from both sets of players who were playing with such great intensity. After five minutes of added time, Jansen Foo blew his whistle marking the end of a fantastic football game.
Tampines Rovers come away with the win and, most importantly, their first clean sheet of the
season. There are lots of positives that coach Gavin Lee can take from his team’s performance, and one would wonder if he has indeed found the solution to keeping a clean sheet. Next up for the Stags would be an AFC Cup clash with PSM at the KLFA Stadium.
Geylang International's Khairul Hairie (left) contesting for the ball with Tampines Rovers' Irfan Najeeb. PHOTO: FAIZAL BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG
For Geylang International, not the sort of scoreline you would like to be on for your debut, but Tajeli’s performance tonight shows how important he is on the right-hand side for the Eagles.
Noor Ali has to go back to the drawing board and hope to find a solution to his team’s results. They play Young Lions, who also lost to Tanjong Pagar United 2-0. Goals from Ryo Nishiguchi and Faritz Hameed put the Jaguars in second on the table.
AIA Singapore Premier League 2022
Other Match Week 12 Results
Tanjong Pagar United 2-0 Young Lions Sat, 18 June 2022, Jurong East Stadium
Balestier Khalsa vs Lion City Sailors Sun, 19 June 2022, Toa Payoh Stadium
Albirex Niigata vs Hougang United Sun, 19 June 2022, Jurong East Stadium