With the visitors taking the lead at the stroke of half-time, the Stags had to put up a strong show and overcome the deficit come the second half, which to their credit they did.
Oddly enough, the match at Clementi Stadium produced two own goals – the first giving the Young Lions the lead at the break, while the second gave Tampines the win.
And while each side would have considered their respective own goal somewhat calamitous, that took little away from a match that showed a good share of grit.
With both teams cautiously seeking the upper hand, the match looked to be goalless heading into the half-time break as opportunities were relatively few.
The Stags had a chance on 25 minutes, but Aleksandar Duric had a tame shot from the six-yard area that came off the knee of a Young Lions defender near the goal-line.
Sirina Camara could then have volleyed home from a corner six minutes later, but the connection went awry as the Young Lions man’s shot missed the mark.
Then came the goal, when it was least expected.
A harmless ball was played by attacking midfielder Shahfiq Ghani to seek out Sherif El-Masri on the left. The ball reached Stags defender Anaz Hadee outside the area, as goalkeeper Sasa Dreven came out, as if to collect.
Dreven had done so silently, though, and the lack of clear communication meant that when Anaz headed the ball back to his goalkeeper, it ended up going past him and dipping into the corner of the goal.
The Stags were thus a goal down at the most inopportune time, conceding just before the break.
They had been largely in control of proceedings without piercing into the visitors’ net, and the second half demanded that they step up their game.
Their charge thus resumed unabated once the first whistle of the second half was blown.
Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin’s cross from near the right corner line on 57 saw the ball bobble past a host of defenders, but when it reached Duric and Benoit Croissant at the far post, it also went beyond them, skimming away harmlessly.
But if that was a golden chance lost, the hosts made up for it ten minutes later, as their persistence finally paid off.
Latiff fed Duric inside the box with a low ball, and the veteran striker laid on to Jamil Ali to the left with much composure.
The lively Jamil hit the ball past the visitors’ defensive wall and into the far corner to make it 1-1.
A quick minute later, a corner awarded to the hosts made it 2-1, as Fahrudin Mustafic seemed to rise up in the box and muster an attempt to connect.
A man in a different shirt made the touch, however, and Jonathan Toto, who had stormed back from his attacking position to help his teammates out, was left in anguish as he unwittingly nodded the ball into his own goal.
Having gone behind, Robin Chitrakar’s boys turned the pressure up, and the action swung to the other end with the Young Lions looking to make a comeback.
On 78 minutes, Camara muscled all the way down to the corner flag and made a cross to his charging teammates. Dreven punched the ball away, only for midfielder Fazli Ayob to make an effort from distance that the goalkeeper was fortunately well-placed to hold.
Indeed, in the closing period, the Croatian proved the difference as he showed firm hands to maintain the Stags’ advantage.
Camara’s attempt inside the box on 81 minutes was instinctively saved by Dreven, who went to ground and muffled the powerful grounder drilled low by the Frenchman from off a cross from the left.
On 87 minutes Young Lions captain Hafiz Abu Sujad almost scored with a break into the box, but the shot was palmed away to safety by the 22-year-old.
Together with defender Mustafic, who was deployed at centreback as Croissant moved left for the day, Dreven served his side well in the final minutes to keep the visitors at bay.
The final whistle duly came to confirm a crucial win for Tampines, who return to winning ways after dropping points in the last two league outings.
Stags coach Steven Tan was certainly relieved his side had averted a third consecutive defeat.
“There were two own goals, one for each side, but in the end it showed the boys’ character to get back from being 0-1 down,” he remarked.
“The Young Lions were not at their best today. We knew how they would play their defend-and-counterattack style, so we played to counter that with a tight defence while we went for the attack.
“I’ll take the win any way it comes, it was crucial for us today.”
Chitrakar meantime felt his boys did well enough to get at least a point from the encounter.
“We did expect them to come at us in the final minutes; they’re a good team and we knew they would hit back,” he told sleague.com.
“In the final 15 minutes we did our best to get the equaliser. I felt we played well enough to get a point at least from this game.
“Our plan was to attack them in the final 15 minutes to get something from the game. As they came at us we were going on the counter from there, but their goalkeeper was in good form and they kept us from doing that.”
The loss ends the Young Lions’ two-match winning run, as they stay third from bottom with seven points from ten matches.
They next face Albirex Niigata (Singapore) on Sunday, giving them little rest time as a quadriceps injury forced the early withdrawal of El-Masri, while substitute Benjamin Lee picked up his fourth yellow card of the season to mark an unhappy return to action.
Article taken from sleague.com, written by Elwyn Lee
CYL Line up:
Syazwan Buhari, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Faritz Abdul Hameed, Sirina Camara, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fazli Ayob (Neil Vanu 89″), Hafiz Abu Sujad (C), Aqhari Abdullah, Shahfiq Ghani (Benjamin Lee 58″), Sherif El-Masri (Faris Ramli 73″), Jonathan Toto