Stags boss Tay hails 'inspirational' Duric

Tampines Rovers coach Tay Peng Kee was effusive in his praise of two-goal hero Aleksandar Duric after Wednesday's 3-0 win over Courts Young Lions.

Neezam thwarts Duric in his bid for a hat-trick!

By Gabriel Tan

The Stags captain netted a brace in the opening 15 minutes to set his side on their way to all three points, before Ahmad Latiff sealed the win with a scorching strike in the 63rd minute.

The result means Tampines are now eight points clear at the top of the table, although second-placed Albirex Niigata can reduce that on Thursday when they entertain Hougang United, and with four games left to go in the season, Tay's charges remain firm favourites to win a second consecutive title.

Having been left out of the starting XI in last Saturday's game against Geylang United due to injury, Duric returned on Wednesday and made an immediate impact by lashing home a third-minute opener from close range, before grabbing his 12 minutes later when he barged his way to a loose ball inside the area and slotted past a hapless Neezam Aziz.

Speaking after the game, Tay was understandably delighted with the contribution his skipper made, especially considering the Singapore international is still being hampered by the ankle injury that saw him withdraw from international duty earlier this month.

"Basically, he [Duric] is still injured but he's always inspirational for the team," the Stags boss said.

"He does make a difference."

Watch: Highlights: Courts Young Lions 0-3 Tampines... More Videos

Given how the campaign has now reached the business end, the ex-Singapore international admits it is somewhat fortunate that Duric is finding the goals, especially given fellow strikers Sead Hadzibulic and Noh Alam Shah are undergoing a bit of a barren spell.

"Sead is a little frustrated with himself," Tay added. "He just can't seem to find his scoring touch and is trying too hard at the moment.

"[However] I don't want to change the partnership between Duric and Sead. I don't think he [Alam Shah] is ready to start - you could see today [Wednesday] he doesn't quite have the flow with the rest of the team yet."

The one negative that came out from Wednesday's game was Mustafic Fahrudin picking up a groin injury, and with a game against Gombak United on Saturday and a potential title decider against Albirex next Wednesday, Tay admits the fixture pileup has not been kind to his side.

"It's quite unfortunate what happened to Fahrudin," he added. "He pulled his groin and it looks like he'll be out for at least two weeks.

"Our fitness levels have improved but it's still not ideal. I can see that now we can at least last the whole game without players cramping up or getting injured, but playing on Saturday after two days' rest will tell the true story.

"I have to say I think us playing four games in eleven days is nonsense."

Young Lions coach Robin Chitrakar was left to reflect on a fourth straight defeat in the league, although he was keen to stress his side had did well to take the game to their more-experienced opponents.

"We came out and we really played," he told "We built up well and created chances but now we have to finish them.

"Hafiz [Abu Sujad] and Faritz [Hameed] were bombing down the flanks and putting in crosses, so it wasn't as though we weren't creating chances. The only matter is the finishing.

"We tried our best; it's not as though we defended for the whole game. We created chances but we didn't take them. Tampines are an experienced side with players like Duric, who took whatever chance that came his way."

Chitrakar did however admit that his players could have done much better with their defending, and absolved reserve goalkeeper Neezam, who was standing in for the ill Syazwan Buhari, of any blame.

"Neezam tried his best - the goals we conceded weren't easy to save," he added.

"The defending for all three goals definitely could have been better."

Young Lions are next in action on Sunday when they take on Geylang at the Bedok Stadium.

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