The Tampines Rovers coach was happy his side maintained their unbeaten run in the league despite fixture congestion, as beaten Woodlands Wellington coach Salim Moin took positivesTable-topping Tampines Rovers could have really put Woodlands Wellington to the sword at Clementi Stadium on Saturday night, but coach Nenad Bacina was in the mood to forgive his players for their wayward finishing after they had easily accounted for the Rams in a 3-1 win.
“I was a little disappointed that we conceded a goal late and didn’t keep a clean sheet,” he said.
“But my players are professionals and not robots and they have been coming to terms with a gruelling schedule of matches.
“They worked hard for the entire game on a heavy pitch, right from the opening seconds and we made sure we didn’t allow Woodlands the space they wanted to create opportunities.
“We managed to close them down very effectively and I wanted us to do that so that the Rams couldn’t threaten us at all.
The Croatian also admitted that the tight fixture schedule was taking its toll on his side, as was seen when defender Seiji Kaneko took to the field wearing a head bandage and played with understandable caution.
“Preparing for another game every two days is not easy,” he pointed out.
“We don’t have time to train properly, only [enough time] to do recovery work.
“Tonight we had to send on Seiji for [the injured] Anaz Hadee, though Seiji probably should not be playing yet as he still has the cut above his eye that has not healed.”
A feature of the game was the immense number of chances created by Tampines, most of which were not converted. Woodlands had a few of their own but were largely outplayed, especially in the midfield.
They relied heavily on Moon Soon Ho and to a lesser extent, Atsushi Shimono and Chang Jo Yoon, with a few chances falling the way of Moon, who found the woodwork at least once but met his match in a tightly-controlled Tampines backline otherwise.
However, Rams coach Salim Moin appeared to take mostly positives from the game.
“I don’t know about the send[ing]-off; you’ll need to ask the referee about that,” he responded when asked about the dismissal of centreback Shariff Samat.
“As for my team, they gave Tampines too much room in the first-half and our concentration when they scored their first and second goals were very poor.”
Salim went for a more positive approach in the second half, only to see his side let in a second goal just one minute after the restart.
“I became more adventurous after we were a goal down and played with three strikers for the last 10 minutes of the first half and all of the second,” he pointed out.
“Unfortunately we conceded a second goal so early in the second half and then suffered with having only 10 men soon after that.
“But I thought we had an improved second-half, we were much better-organised by then.
“Our defenders didn’t chase back properly when Tampines got their second, but after that they put in a good performance.”
As for Tampines and their busy timetable, Bacina reflected on this after completing yet another match unbeaten in the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League.
“We have to keep going, there is no break for us, no other choice,” he said, as the Stags kept up their unbeaten start to the season.
“We have to play Selangor on Tuesday in the AFC Cup and I would like to see my team finish their campaign on a winning note, so I won’t be playing my reserves; maybe later in the season when there is less pressure to perform I can give some of the younger players their chance to get some experience.
“Today we were without a few players and some of those on the bench were not fully fit, like Seiji and Jamil Ali.
“Our next S.League game won’t be easy as it is against Tanjong Pagar, so we will need our best eleven to start.”