Champions' mentality pleases Stags' Bacina

Nenad Bacina believes the qualities his Tampines Rovers players showed in Friday's gritty 1-0 triumph over Home United were the hallmark of a championship side.

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Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

The reigning Great Eastern-YEO's S.League champions made it six wins from six games in the 2013 campaign at the Jalan Besar Stadium, but were somewhat lucky to do so as they were dominated by the Protectors, only to pick up maximum points thanks to Mustafic Fahrudin's expertly-taken spot-kick in the 63rd minute.

The penalty had been awarded after Seiji Kaneko's goal-bound header had been handled on the line by Firdaus Idros, who also received a straight red for the infringement, but Home continued to look dangerous despite the numerical disadvantage and wasted a number of good chances to grab an equaliser.

Nonetheless, Bacina believes the determination shown in Friday's victory bodes well for his side's title prospects.

"Definitely," he replied, when asked if the gritty win was a mark of champions. "It's not just in Singapore; you see it everywhere in the world and in the big European leagues.

"You can't always play pretty football. All of us want to play good football but you only have to look at top teams like [Barclays Premier League giants] Chelsea a few years back.

"Of course, I'm not saying Tampines are Chelsea or comparing myself to [ex-Chelsea manager Jose] Mourinho, but games like this happen.

"Home United played very well and that's no surprise - they are one of the biggest clubs in the S.League and still a very good side. We expected a tough game.

"But to be under pressure in a difficult game and still be able to survive and get a point or maybe three - that's how you do it at a big team. It's something you expect from all the top teams; getting points even when you don't play well against an equally good side."

And although the Stags are now the only team still with a 100% record in 2013, after Albirex Niigata (S) lost 2-1 to Woodlands Wellington on Tuesday, the Croat was quick to state it has not been as simple as some might have made it out to be.

"As the defending champions, perhaps everyone expected us to win our opening six games," Bacina added. "But it has not been easy.

"Of course, I have to be happy that we have managed to win all six games but we must keep our feet on the ground.

"On paper, people expect us to have 100 chances and score 90 goals in each game but playing in the S.League is not easy. There are strong teams and in every game you face good opponents."

Tampines now switch their attentions to the AFC Cup, where they entertain Indian side East Bengal in a crucial Group H clash on Wednesday.

Image courtesy of Home United FC (Jaron Lee)

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