Match Of The Week

Football: Stags eye breakthrough in S-League

Tampines Rovers midfielder Jermaine Pennant (left) is likely to shake off a hamstring injury to start against Warriors FC tonight.
Tampines Rovers midfielder Jermaine Pennant (left) is likely to shake off a hamstring injury to start against Warriors FC tonight.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Tampines captain looks to shore up defence and earn first win against Warriors since 2013

S-LEAGUE

Warriors FC v Tampines Rovers
Jalan Besar Stadium, 7.45pm

Mustafic Fahrudin had to watch from the bench as Tampines Rovers began their S-League season in less than ideal fashion, but the captain is set to start tonight's match against Warriors FC as the Stags look for their first win.

The former Singapore international will likely reprise his centre-back role from last season, after suspensions to centre-back Noh Rahman and midfielder Yasir Hanapi, who were both sent off in the 3-3 home draw with Geylang International on Monday.

Fahrudin did not play against the Eagles, and was a second-half substitute in the title favourites' 1-3 loss to Indian champions Mohun Bagan in a first-round Asian Champions League qualifer last month.

Despite being overlooked for those games, he hopes to use his experience and reading of the game to shore up a leaky defence that has conceded six goals in two matches.

The 34-year-old, whose natural position is in midfield, told The Straits Times: "Of course, as a player you want to start, especially at this age and for the first game of the season. But it's the coach's choice, I have to accept it as it's not about me, it's about the team.

"In my opinion, three goals (conceded) is too much for a title contender, so I hope to help organise the defence and keep a clean sheet for the team, whatever my role is."

Star signing Jermaine Pennant is also slated to start tonight. The Englishman came on before the hour-mark against Geylang.

Speaking to ST at a training session on Wednesday, head coach V Sundramoorthy said of Pennant, who recently recovered from a hamstring injury: "(He's) not fully fit, we'll see how long he goes. But he'll probably be starting."

The former Arsenal and Liverpool winger appeared unhindered by his recent injury, bamboozling opposing defenders during a training match with a deft outside-foot through pass on one occasion.

Fahrudin said of his new team-mate: "He can bring that extra quality for (today's) game... the final cross, the final through ball and more. He is in a different class."

Sundram added that attack will remain the name of the game tonight, though defensive work was not neglected in training.

He said: "We have touched on the areas (defence) that we need to improve on. My team, with this quality, I must attack. I cannot sit back... we must make sure the fans get value for their money."

For Fahrudin, the history of this fixture also bears extra significance. Tampines have not beaten Warriors in eight previous attempts since their last win in 2013.

Attributing their inability to beat their opponents last season to misfortune, he hopes to lead his team to a "really important" first win of a long season ahead.

He said: "We didn't beat them last year, but I think we are a better team than them. It is important not to repeat mistakes we make... we just have to work hard."

"We can only get better, so we need to start winning. We need the momentum, we need to win such big games (against Warriors), it will give us a boost for the next few games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'STAGS EYE BREAKTHROUGH'. Print Edition | Subscribe