The defending S.League champions dominated their game against their Malaysian opponents but wasted several chances before scoring the winner in the closing minutes
Reigning S.League champions Tampines Rovers left it late to clinch a slender 1-0 win over Harimau Muda at the Pasir Gudang Stadium on Wednesday.
The Stags clearly dominated the game and could have taken at least a three-goal lead into the half-time interval but they were guilty of spurning numerous glorious opportunities.
Striking duo Aleksander Duric and Ahmed Fahmie were having it easy upfront, shaking their markers off easily but they just could not find the back of the net.
In the seventh minute, Duric laid the ball off for Fahmie in the penalty box but the latter’s shot was palmed away by Harimau custodian Ilham Amirullah.
Former Singapore international Duric was also left scratching his head after he then shot wide from close range.
Fahmie had done well to sidestep his marker before lobbing the ball towards Duric in the 16-yard box but the 43-year-old sent his shot agonisingly wide of the left-hand post in the 25th minute.
It was not all one-way traffic as the Malaysians were deploying the long ball tactics, which was not their usual game, but they were prevented from causing much trouble in the attacking third by the visitors’ disciplined defensive duo of Kunihiro Yamashita and Seiji Kaneko.
Razip Ismail’s side was also not helped by the absence of key players like starlet Maxsius Musa and Akmal Ishak, who were injured, and Faizat Ghazli who was suspended.
That had an adverse effect on the Malaysian team as they sorely lacked creativity and firepower upfront.
Midway through the second half, Tay Peng Kee introduced new foreign imports Vitor Ladeiras and Diogo Caramelo for Firdaus Kasman and Fahmie respectively.
But their presence did not made much of a difference as the lost duo looked like they were still struggling to gel with the rest of the team.
The visitors’ bench was up in arms in the 73rd minute after referee Yazeen Buhari denied them a penalty when Duric was brought down in the penalty box by Syawal Nordin.
However, the Stags’ perseverance finally paid off when they got the winning goal five minutes from time.
Despite being surrounded by a sea of blue and white shirts, Yamashita managed to head the ball into goal from Shahdan Sulaiman’s corner kick.
With the win, Tampines remain top of the league table on 37 points while the Malaysians are now in seventh place on 20 points.