RHB SINGAPORE CUP FINAL
Albirex Niigata 2
Tampines Rovers 0
An upset Jermaine Pennant ended his nine-month sojourn in Singapore football yesterday feeling snubbed that his talent and experience is not needed much by his employers.
Mystery surrounds why he was omitted from Tampines Rovers' starting XI in the RHB Singapore Cup final - the club's last chance to win a trophy this season.
The Englishman finally came off the bench in the 68th minute as the Stags lost 2-0, giving Albirex an unprecedented clean sweep of all four local trophies this campaign.
There are no regrets on my part to leave Jermaine Pennant on the bench. I would do it 1,000 times over again if I have to... I see him during training.
AKBAR NAWAS , Tampines Rovers coach, standing by his decision to leave star signing Jermaine Pennant out of the starting XI.
With a sigh, Pennant expressed bewilderment at the decision. The 33-year-old winger questioned: "For what reason would you leave a Jermaine Pennant on the bench in a big game like a final?
"It is the time when you need a player with the experience of playing these big-time games like a final. I'm puzzled by the decision. It's disappointing to not have started in the final. But it is what it is, and well, I'll just go home now."
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas stood by his decision to leave their biggest name on the bench at the start of the game. Former Arsenal midfielder Pennant started in the 2007 Champions League final for Liverpool and in the 2011 FA Cup final for Stoke City.
The coach said: "There are no regrets on my part to leave Jermaine Pennant on the bench. I would do it 1,000 times over again if I have to... I see him during training.
"But he had a chance to turn the game around but you could see for yourself if he did that or not."
Stags chairman Krishna Ramachandra hinted that his marquee signing had only himself to blame.
The lawyer said: "It's important to establish that no player is above the team. Football is about winning games, but the manner of winning is important too. The moment any one player thinks that they are above the team, that's the recipe for anarchy. I'm in complete support of the coach's decision."
For the Stags, they would be disappointed to end the season without silverware.
An uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper and captain Izwan Mahbud, who fumbled on a defensive pass from Fahrudin Mustafic, allowed striker Atsushi Kawata to easily slot home in the 28th minute. And from a counter-attack in the 87th minute, Kento Nagasaki sent a looping header into the net off Daichi Ishiyama's cross to bury Tampines.
Izwan said: "Everybody has one of those bad days, and I'm disappointed to have cost the team.
"I have made these kind of mistakes before when I was younger. But there's a Suzuki Cup coming up and I have to move on from this quickly."
Akbar added: "You wouldn't have expected something like that to come from Izwan. But this kind of sums up the whole season for us. We tried and tried, you can see with all the things that happened, but in the end it was not meant to be a title for us."
But there is no denying the joy in Albirex coach Naoki Naruo, who simply said: "This is the happiest moment for me."
In stark contrast, Pennant's mood could not have been more different.