The Jaguars dominated the defending S.League champions but paid for their wastefulness as the Stags came back strongly to earn a point
While they failed to do so, Tampines coach Salim Moin was happy to see his team halt the rot after losses to Woodlands Wellington and Nay Pyi Taw FC.
“We wanted to win very badly tonight,” he told the press after the game. “Even when we were down, they created chances and we managed to score a goal. After that you could see we kept on coming, but Tanjong Pagar defended very well and credit has to go to them.”
He also reserved praise for Alam Shah, who struck his third of the campaign.
“I always believe in Alam Shah; he’s very experienced, always has self motivation and he scored a good goal.”
The Jaguars, who were winless in three games, came out with all guns blazing. They peppered the Stags’ goal with efforts from Etiemble, Firdaus Idros and Ruzaini Zainal, as the attacking midfield trio caused endless trouble for the opposition.
At the back, dogged defending held off the Stags, whose best opening came when Miljan Mrdakovic struck the bar from six yards under pressure.
Their dominance was rewarded on the stroke of half-time when Monsef Zerka broke the offside trap and ran on to Sazali Salleh’s perfect through ball, before squaring for Etiemble to slot home.
The creator should have turned scorer 30 seconds after the restart, but Zerka somehow sidefooted wide from six yards after Etiemble found him with a low cross.
The Moroccan wasted two other chances and Tampines made a tiring Tanjong Pagar pay when Alam Shah nodded home Ang Zhi Wei’s pin-point cross on 67 minutes to draw them level.
Frenchman Patrick Vallee admitted his disappointment at not being able to finish off their opponents with a second goal, but hoped that the performance would give them belief to move up from their current 10th position.
“The game was very difficult because Tampines wanted to bounce back after two losses,” he said.
“Tonight, my team gave everything. If my team [continue to] play like that with the spirit and quality, hopefully we can get more [good] results.”
A loss would have been cruel on the Jaguars but they were hanging on towards the end after the Stags piled on the pressure following the equaliser.
The failure to complete the fightback means that Tampines have now won only once in their last six games and Salim admitted that the poor run has affected team morale.
“To me, a draw is like a defeat,” he said. “They are very down and it is my job to motivate the team.”