The defending champions did enough to secure a slender victory as they notched a fourth consecutive victory to keep up with league leaders Albirex Niigata (S)
|FROM CHOA CHU KANG STADIUM
By Khalis Rifhan
After an impressive first win of the season a week ago against Geylang International, Warriors FC was brought back to reality as Tampines Rovers ran out 1-0 winners against them on Thursday night.
Former LionsXII striker Khairul Amri scored the only goal of the game before the break to give Nenad Bacina’s side maximum points at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, as the Stags kept pace with league leaders Albirex Niigata (S).
With Kazuyuki Toda and Syed Fadhil unavailable due to injury, Shi Jiayi partnered Shimpei Sakurada in the middle of the park while Ruzaini Zainal slotted in at right-back in a traditional 4-4-2 formation for the home side.
There was an early scare for the visitor barely five minutes in when a routine back pass from Shaiful Esah was not properly dealt with by Sasa Dreven, but the goalkeeper recovered well to clear the ball before Sufian Anuar was able to get to the end of it.
There was a penalty shout from the Warriors in the 11th minute as Mislav Karoglan was pulled down in the box by Kunihiro Yamashita, but referee Muhd Taqi waved play on.
Six minutes later, Warriors nearly paid for an error after Marin Vidosevic was dispossessed by Sead Hadzibulic at the edge of the box. The Serbian striker laid the ball off for Imran Sahib at the far end, but Hyrulnizam Juma’at saved his team’s blushes as he held firmly on to the stinging shot.
Despite dominating the game, the Warriors conceded a goal four minutes before half-time.
From a corner, Mustafic Fahrudin knocked the ball back into the six-yard box for a lurking Amri to easily nod in from close range to give the Stags the lead.
Tampines could have doubled their tally 18 minutes from time when Shahdan Sulaiman did well to connect with a header from Ismadi Mukhtar’s cross, only to see it hit the underside of the bar.
The defending Singapore Cup champions ended the match with ten men when Vidosevic was shown the red card 12 minutes from time for a reckless two-footed challenge on Jufri Taha.
Although a man down, the Warriors did not let their game down and had a couple of chances to level the game in the final minutes. Karoglan was first denied by the heroics of Dreven, before the bar came to the Stags’ rescue in the dying seconds of the game.
The Warriors will next travel to Toa Payoh Stadium to face Balestier Khalsa on March 24. while Tampines will host Harimau Muda on the same day.