SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Balestier Khalsa 2
Tampines Rovers 5
Even at 33, Khairul Amri shows no signs of slowing down.
In fact, his Tampines Rovers coach, Jurgen Raab, believes the veteran national striker is the fittest he has been in years.
Amri displayed his predatory instincts as he grabbed a hat-trick in the Stags' 5-2 win over Balestier Khalsa in their Singapore Premier League (SPL) match at Toa Payoh Stadium yesterday, taking his tally for the season to eight.
He is the leading local goalscorer, with only Brunei DPMM's Ukrainian striker Volodymyr Priyomov (nine), Warriors FC's French forward Jonathan Behe and Albirex Niigata targetman Shuhei Hoshino (both 13) ahead of him.
Clutching the match ball under his arm, a beaming Amri told The Sunday Times: "I'm really happy because it has been so long since I last scored a hat-trick. I may be 33 now, but I'm no different to any other striker - I want to score as many goals as I can in every game I play."
He last netted a treble in a 6-3 win for Tampines over Woodlands Wellington in November 2013.
Tampines coach Raab believes that despite his age, Amri is close to returning to the top of his game because he is now back to full fitness.
"Out of 12 months last year, I had him for only about three months," said the German, referring to a groin injury which restricted Amri to just nine starts last term.
"But, since we started working in pre-season last December, he has worked very hard (on fitness), and this is the result."
Yesterday's win helped Tampines keep up the pressure on leaders Albirex, who have a perfect 13 straight wins and are 11 points ahead of the Stags.
Irfan Najeeb opened the scoring for Tampines in the ninth minute, but they conceded a penalty which Balestier forward Hazzuwan Halim converted in the 20th minute.
Amri restored Tampines' lead with a poacher's finish off a rebound, and grabbed his second with a header off Yasir Hanapi's free kick in the 70th minute.
Balestier pulled another goal back through Akbar Shah in the 78th minute, but Amri capitalised on a defensive error to complete his hat-trick in the 90th minute. Jordan Webb added gloss to the scoreline with a low finish in injury time.
In the other match, hosts Brunei DPMM beat Warriors FC 2-1.