Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reaction: Woodlands vs Tampines

What a match.

Even Sead Hadžibulić's hat trick, which consigned the Rams to their fifth home defeat, could not dampen the spirits of the home fans as Woodlands put in a performance worthy of a top-half table team.

Gone were the defensive minded tactics, which had left fans frustrated time and again. Suddenly, Woodlands was displaying promising movement in the final third of the pitch, passing the ball around intricately and making intelligent use of the wings, where Guntur Djafril and Goh Swee Swee toiled relentlessly with their respective ventures down the left and right flanks.

Perhaps the players were riled by the callous comment of a particular S.League writer who condemned the team even before a single ball was kicked, describing the literal parking of a double decker as the only way Woodlands could expect to get something out of this match.

The best form of defence is offense.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Woodlands approached this game knowing a loss to Tampines, depending how Geylang fared at Home United the following day, would potentially drop us down into the bottom spot. And how Woodlands laboured to come up with a favourable result.

Against their determined and organised opponents, Tampines found themselves under constant threat as the Rams launched wave after wave of attack on Saša Dreven's goal. Steven Tan, who enjoyed a fairly easy victory over the Rams in March, was probably left scratching his head and wondering if this was the same team which his Stags beat 4-0 in March.

While many expected Woodlands to buckle under the threat of a star studded Tampines team featuring the likes of Hadžibulić, Aleksandar Đurić, Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin and, later on in the second half, Mustafić Fahrudin and Noh Alam Shah, the Rams stubbornly refused to give in to the hype generated by the media and took the game to the Stags. If there was supposed to be a gulf between S.League champions Tampines and bottom dweller Woodlands, it certainly didn't show in this match as the Rams had the Stags constantly on the back foot, especially in the second half.

Armanizam engaged in a lively battle with Mustafić in midfield.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Attacking midfielders Hussein Akil and Neil Vanu were constant thorns to Tampines' defence, while Moon Soon-Ho threatened with his prospective shots at goal. Armanizam Dolah provided the thrust in the middle of the park, while Daniel Hammond's trademark punts provided plenty of ammunition for the frontline. The congruent teamwork on the field, which had been lacking for the past 13 winless matches, drew cheers of appreciation from the home stands, but this was sadly misinterpreted as a form of indulging in oblivious revelry by misinformed members of the media.

Quiet throughout the match, the Tampines faithful only sprang to life whenever the ball landed in the back of the net in their favour. However, it seemed like the Stags fans saved their loudest cheers for the introduction of Noh Alam Shah in the 68th minute. Credit goes to "Along" for taking the chants directed at him like a real man, and acknowledging the Woodlands fans with a friendly wave after the final whistle when his name was cheered emphatically by the Rams faithful as well.

No Duncan, you deserve the thumbs up from us!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The match ended with the entire Woodlands team walking over to the gallery to applaud and shake the fans' hands. The players must have sensed the renewed sense of belief in each and every fan. There was plenty of cheering going on, and the merry-making went on well after every player had entered the tunnel for their post match showers.

Attention now can turn to our encounter with Balestier Khalsa on Friday night. The Tigers faltered at home to Hougang on Tuesday and look to be going through a slump right now. A win on Friday would bring a much-needed boost after tonight's definitive performance by the boys.

Bring on Balestier Khalsa, I say! Never Surrender!

For more photos of the match, please check out Andrew's album here.

Tampines Rovers: 3 (Hadžibulić 26, 39, 84)
Woodlands Welllington: 0

Woodlands: Ahmadulhaq; Elias, Lewis, Hammond (c), Armanizam; Guntur (Oswind 79), Farizal (Yap 56), Goh; Moon, Akil, Neil.
Unused subs Ang, Dinie, Zulkarnain, Han, Daniel

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