Want the S.League title? You have to come and get it from us. That seemed to be the statement Tampines Rovers sent out on Friday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, as they took home the Charity Shield.
The defending champions edged 2013 league runners-up and Singapore Cup winners Home United 1-0 in a close contest to notch the first three points on offer in the new campaign.
Miljan Mrdakovic's goal two minutes into the second half was enough to secure victory for the Stags against the Protectors, who had been touted as genuine title contenders for the 2014 season.
With the fixture doubling as the first match of the season, there was much at stake and it was Home who impressed early on. Korean star Lee Kwan Woo was his usual classy self and forced Tampines custodian Hyrulnizam Juma'at to parry a vicious 35-yard free-kick at full stretch early on. The latter then had to block Qiu Li's fierce effort, after the striker had played a neat one-two with Lee.
But it was the Stags who went ahead against the run of play after the break. Marquee signing Mrdakovic took advantage of a lapse in concentration to bring down Roberto Martinez's cross and fire his team ahead in the 47th minute.
That saw Tampines move into the ascendancy as they kept Home at bay, with Aleksandar Duric blasting wide from a tight angle on the hour mark as the Home defence went to sleep again.
The Protectors piled on the pressure in the final 20 minutes and Yasir Hanapi should have done better than to shoot over after Lee had played him in from the right with a lovely dinked ball.
Their task was made more difficult when Qiu was dismissed on 81 minutes for an unnecessary kick at Anaz Hadee, after the latter won a challenge against him.
Some good handling from Hyrulnizam and strong defending from captain Mustafic Fahrudin ensured Tampines saw out the game, as they celebrated at the final whistle and hoisted the Charity Shield shortly after to give new coach Salim Moin the first silverware of his reign.