By Alison ChinFollow @@AlisonChin9
Reporting from Clementi Stadium
V. Kanan's men gave a good account of themselves against the reigning champions in the first half, but could not keep up the intensity of their display in the second period.
A lapse in concentration from the Geylang defence in the 61st minute allowed Jamil Ali to prod the Stags in front, before Nenad Bacina's team took full control of the game and were unlucky not to have won by a more convincing score-line.
On the back of a four-game unbeaten run, the Eagles were keen to exact revenge for the drubbing suffered at the hands of Tampines earlier in the season. Geylang benefitted from Wahyudi Wahid's good form in recent fixtures, with the player's latest strike the match-winner against Courts Young Lions, making it little surprise that Wahid kept his place alongside skipper Jozef Kaplan for the visit to Clementi Stadium.
The Eagles attacking duo's task was simplified by the absence of Tampines defender Kunihiro Yamashita. However, Nenad Bacina's men were eager to return to winning ways in front of their fans after tasting their first league defeat against Tanjong Pagar last week.
Nevertheless, it was the visitors who started the brighter. Leading by example, Kaplan picked up possession down the right flank in the first minute and cut a low ball across the face of Sasa Dreven's goalmouth. Thankfully for Tampines, Yasir Hanapi failed to get on the end of his captain's pass.
Just three minutes later, Geylang came close again. Wahyudi was the creator this time, slicing a ball through the Stags defence to set up Taufiq Ghani in a one-on-one situation with Dreven. The Tampines goalkeeper came out on top, but spilt the resultant corner and forced his backline to hoof the ball clear.
Jamil could have made the Eagles rue their missed chances in the seventh minute, but he skied Imran Sahib's floated ball. The 29-year old was at the heart of the Stags' attack again five minutes later, making a purposeful dribble down the middle to play in Sead Hadzibulic on the edge of the area. Instead of taking a shot, the Tampines striker flicked it toward partner Aleksandar Duric, but the Suzuki Cup winner's attempt was dealt with by Takuma Ito.
The Stags began to dominate possession and pinned the visiting side in their own half with some quick attacks from the wing. In the 12th minute, Shaiful Esah skipped past Khairulnizam Jumahat with ease down the left to send in a far post cross that Hadzibulic rose magnificently for, only for Ito to pull off another save.
Two minutes after Hadzibulic's effort, Duric came close on the right side of the penalty area by attempting to volley home Jamil's cross, but the Geylang goalkeeper punched the shot clear before Duric missed again on the rebound.
Despite the opportunities created, Nenad Bacina's men had nothing to show for their efforts and the frustration was obvious. In the 33rd minute, marquee signing Martin Wagner earned the unwanted honour of being the first to go into the referee's book for kicking the ball away after failing to keep it within the lines.
Three minutes later, the Argentinean found himself part of a three-on-three counter attack, but Duric chose to swing the ball out to the waiting Jamil on the right. The former Woodlands Wellington player made his way into the penalty area to take daring shot at goal that Ito barely got to, and the Eagles cleared their lines before Wagner could get on the end of the rebound.
However, Jalal ensured that Geylang had the last word of the half when his team were awarded a 42nd minute free kick on the right of Dreven's penalty box. The 32-year old's attempt curled at the last minute, forcing a brilliant reflex save from the Tampines goalkeeper.
Dreven found himself in the thick of things again 12 minutes into the second period, after Kaneko slipped while trying to dispossess Kaplan down the right. Despite Kaplan's attempt to place his shot toward the near post, he could not beat the commanding Stags custodian, who dashed off his line to punch the ball clear.
Four minutes after Kaplan's miss, the defending champions took the lead. Substitute Shahdan Sulaiman, thrown on to drive the Tampines attack, put plenty of spin in his 61st minute corner and it was headed toward goal by Mustafic. Although Ito palmed the attempt away, his defenders were too slow to react to the threat of Jamil, allowing the Stags player to tuck away the rebound.
Fellow Tampines substitute Khairul Amri was also proving a handful for the tiring Geylang defence, who struggled to match up to the Singapore international's pace. Three minutes from the full-time whistle, Amri started a counter attack after picking up the ball from an opposition corner kick and put Jamil through on the left of the penalty area. However, the goal-scorer failed in his attempt to double his tally after his shot came off Ito's near post.
Two minutes after setting up Jamil, Amri dashed down the left flank himself and squared a pass across the Geylang six yard box, but Duric failed to anticipate his team-mate's intentions, forcing the Stags to make do with a slender 1-0 win.
Tampines Rovers: Sasa Dreven, Jufri Taha, Mustafic Fahrudin, Seiji Kaneko, Imran Sahib (Ahmed Fahmie 85'), Firdaus Kasman, Jamil Ali Shaiful Esah, Aleksandar Duric, Martin Wagner (Shahdan Sulaiman 53'), Sead Hadzibulic (Khairul Amri 75').
Geylang International: Takuma Ito, Khairulnizam Jumahat (Nurhazwan Norasikin 67'), Khayrulhayat Jumat, Norihiro Kawakami, Delwinder Singh, Yasir Hanapi (Andrew Tan 83'), Fabian Kwok, Taufiq Ghani, Jalal (Duncan Elias 79'), Jozef Kaplan, Wahyudi Wahid
Image courtesy of VOXSPORTS (Darren Ho)