Tampines Rovers' title bid is back on track after extending their lead at the top of the 2013 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League to five points, thanks to a 1-0 win over Geylang International at Clementi Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Stags were looking to bounce back after their shock 1-0 defeat to Tanjong Pagar last week, and they did just that as a scrappy goal in the second-half by Jamil Ali gave them all three points in an open and entertaining game.
Tampines had more clear-cut chances and should have gotten on the scoreboard early in the game if not for some excellent goalkeeping by Geylang number one Takuma Ito.
Midfielder Jamil was the greatest threat for the Stags and his cut-back from the right found Aleksandar Duric, whose shot was well blocked by Ito in the 14th minute.
Mustafic Fahrudin had a great chance two minutes later to give his side the breakthrough when he was found unmarked from a cross by Firdaus Kasman. However, the Singapore international could only direct his header straight to Ito.
Jamil continued to terrorize the Eagles defence with his pace and trickery, but Vedhamuthu Kanan's side managed to ride out the waves of Tampines attacks.
Geylang grew into the game after the half-hour mark and even found the net in the 37th minute, but Yasir Hanapi’s fierce finish in the box was disallowed for offside.
Both sides’ game-plans didn’t change after the break, with Tampines pouring forward in search of a breakthrough and Geylang finding joy in attack as well.
And the Eagles almost took a shock lead in the 57th minute when captain Jozef Kaplan found himself with only Stags goalkeeper Sasa Dreven to beat after dispossessing Japanese defender Seiji Kaneko at the back. However, the 27-year-old’s effort was well blocked by Dreven.
Tampines finally got their breakthrough at the hour mark. The Eagles were caught sleeping from a Stags corner and Jamil was in the right place at the right time to force the ball home.
It was the Jamil show as the 30-year-old showed why he was the best player on the pitch for the Stags, taking on the entire Geylang defence before hitting the post in the 88th minute.In the end, it was his solitary goal that separated both sides as Tampines extended their lead to five points.
The defending S.League champions will take on Hougang United on Sunday, while Geylang face Balestier Khalsa next Thursday.