New coach Alex Weaver began his reign with defeat as the defending champions edged them in a narrow encounter to stay top of the tableTampines Rovers overcame a new-look Warriors FC 1-0 side to maintain their lead at the top of the table in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League on Friday evening.
The first chance of the evening came just three minutes into the first half, with Mustafic Fahrudin emerging from midfield and running at the Warrior defence before dragging his shot well off target from 20 yards.
The Stags again came close to breaking the deadlock in the 11th minute when Jamil Ali made a dexterous turn on the edge of the 18-yard area, only to see his effort screw wide of the Warriors goal as space opened up for him.
In the several minutes that ensued, Tampines began to take the game by the scruff of the neck, moving the ball about with more purpose, and steadily building up play, as they brought more players into the game.
Tampines slowly began to ask questions of the Warriors defence, progressively attacking with more and more aggression. And sure enough, just seven minutes later, they again came so agonisingly close to breaking the Warriors’ resistance.
Jamil Ali again failed to convert, smashing his effort into the on-sliding Zulfadli Zainal after being put through by Ahmed Fahmie’s clever lay-off.
At the half-hour mark, after having chased shadows for the best part of the game, the Warriors finally looked to have gotten their act together as they fashioned their first real chance of the evening.
Winger Tatsuro Inui stormed down the left-channel and whipped in an inch-perfect cross for Mislav Karoglan, who was foiled by a timely intervention from centre-half Seiji Kaneko, who did just enough to put the Bosnian off.
Warriors finished the half strongly, coming close on several occasions courtesy of some fantastic deliveries from Inui down the left-flank, most notably in the 34th minute when Marin Vidosevic rose highest to meet a freekick, only to see his effort fly agonisingly wide of the post.
Alex Weaver’s men began the second half as they ended the first, aggressively stretching the Stags’ defence from the get-go and effectively utilising the abundance of pace present on the flanks.
It took just six minutes for the men in white to register their first effort of the half, with the impressive Inui making an adventurous, jinking run before unleashing a fierce left-footed drive that drew an outstanding save from Andre Martins.
In 55th minute, perhaps against the run of play, it was the Stags who took the lead. Skipper Mustafic released Jamil with a perfectly weighted lofted pass and the latter showed exquisite control to bring the ball down and take it into his stride, leaving Abdil Qaiyyim for dead before coolly slotting past a stranded Hassan Sunny.
Tampines began to take a more reserved approach to the game, visibly shaping up more tightly and soaking up pressure, as opposed to their significantly more aggressive approach earlier in the game.
However, they could easily have had two or three by the 60th minute, with Aleksandar Duric having been played in by a pair of superb passes from new signing Diogo Caramelo and Shahdan Sulaiman respectively in quick succession, only to be deemed as offside on both occasions.
As the game wore on, it was looking increasingly likely that the Stags would be taking maximum points on the evening; the Warriors had quite simply run out of ideas.
In the dying embers of the game, Inui made a barnstorming run down the right before cutting inside and unleashing a ferocious left-footed effort that flew just over the bar.
The Stags managed to see the game out, as they maintained their two-point lead at the summit of the summit of the S.League table.