The Croatian ace struck late to give the home team the blues, as the Stags failed to make their dominance count and slumped to their third defeat of the seasonSAFFC recorded their second consecutive 1-0 victory in the league as they beat Tampines Rovers at the Clementi stadium, courtesy of a late strike by Mislav Karoglan.
All eyes were on Ahmad Latiff who made his first start for the Stags in this season’s S.League, after finally clearing the beep test last week, after numerous attempts but 'King Kari' stole the show when he scored the decisive goal in the 84th minute.
Despite playing in the mid-week against Kitchee FC in an AFC Cup group game, the home team showed no sign of fatigue and displayed their intention to grab maximum points from the start with Gligor Gligorov floating in a dangerous free kick into the area in the third minute.
SAF custodian Shahril Jantan fumbled the ball, but fortunately for the visitors, Bah Mamadou was there to clear it away before the Stags’s attackers could pounce on it.
Tampines then went on to dominate the match with the likes of Aleksandar Duric, Davor Piskor and Ahmad Fahmie combining well to create some good chances upfront.
But against the run of play, an Eddie Chang long throw in the 19th minute found Fazrul Nawaz in the box but the forward’s header went inches off the goal.
Davor Piskor then wasted two great chances in a minute to give Tampines the lead. In the 35th minute, he headed a Latiff cross way over and after that, the Croatian fired over a volley after receiving a cross from Sazali Salleh.
SAF started the second half brightly with Shukor Zailan firing in a great shot from 20 yards out in the 53rd minute but an alert Sasa Dreven kept it out.
Shahril was then made to work when he tipped over a seemingly harmless free kick from Sazali, which bounced in the six-yard box three minutes later.
Ageless wonder Duric then have a glorious chance to open the scoring in the 64th minute but the striker directed his header wide off from five yards out. Wit
Fazrul then managed to round off Sasa three minutes later but instead of crossing it back into the box, he blasted the shot wide over.
Tampines coach Steven Tan then sent on 'silent assassin' Jamil Ali for Piskor in the 72nd minute and it almost paid off immediately as the striker charged into the box a minute later but fired his shot straight at Shahril.
With Tampines struggling to make their possession count and the players finally showing signs of slowing down due to fatigue, Karoglan took the chance and taught them a lesson as he fired home the winning goal, his second in two matches.
Shimpei Sakurada worked his way into the Tampines box and laid it off for Karoglan who cheekily chipped the ball over the diving Sasa into the empty net to make it 1-0.
It was too little too late for Tampines as they slumped to their second consecutive 1-0 loss in the league and they will definitely be looking for a change in fortunes when they host the Courts Young Lions next Thursday.
SAFFC will be smiling all the way home and travel to the Jurong West stadium to meet Gombak United next Saturday.