SINGAPORE – For all the drama and unpredictability of this Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, there has been one constant – when Boris Kopitovic finds the net, Tampines Rovers are unbeatable.
On Sunday (May 8), the Montenegrin, 27, scored for the sixth game in a row with his third free-kick goal of the season to help the Stags come from behind to beat an in-form Balestier Khalsa 2-1 at Our Tampines Hub.
Kopitovic has now grabbed 12 goals from seven of his club’s eight matches, failing to find the net only in the 1-0 defeat by leaders Lion City Sailors.
With the win, Tampines remain second with 15 points from eight games, four behind the Sailors, as the Tigers stay fifth with 10 points.
Kopitovic told The Straits Times: “There is no secret behind my goals, just hard work... After training, I take free kicks for 30 minutes, and I’m happy to do my job and score for the team from any situation. I’m confident of keeping my scoring form and help Tampines stay in the title chase.”
Even without their Covid-positive striker Shuhei Hoshino, the visitors drew first blood after 15 minutes. Stags goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari could only parry Darren Teh’s low cross into the danger area and Gareth Low netted to become his team’s first local scorer.
But Tampines rallied to equalise with Kopitovic notching his fifth assist by knocking on Kyoga Nakamura’s chip for Zehrudin Mehmedovic to score in the 32nd minute.
Despite losing skipper Yasir Hanapi, who was replaced by Andrew Aw Yong after suffering a cut to his face from Ensar Bruncevic’s stray arm early in the second half, the Stags went ahead.
Ammirul Emmran brought Kopitovic down just outside the box, and the striker slotted in a free kick below the jumping Balestier wall.
Tampines coach Gavin Lee said: “Boris is reaping the rewards of the work he has put in and the analysis we do... we focused a lot on positioning to get him into areas where he can score.”
Balestier coach Akbar Nawas, who lost defender Delwinder Singh in injury time to two quick yellow cards, felt they should have won. He said: “We wanted to break the lines behind their full-backs and did that. We just didn’t make enough of our chances count.”
As Tampines celebrate another win and Kopitovic masterclass, Lee will no doubt be concerned about his side going nine matches without a clean sheet. He knows well that while goals are important, defence wins titles.
He did note that his team have already conceded first five times this season, but are taking steps to rectify that as they have stopped opponents from having a free man in the middle of the box while defending.