SINGAPORE - They came - all 2,930 fans of them - but unfortunately were unable to witness S-League record signing Jermaine Pennant lift Tampines Rovers to victory in the opening game of their S-League campaign on Monday night. Instead, the star-studded Stags had to settle for a 3-3 draw with Eastern rivals Geylang International at the Jurong West Stadium.
To be fair, the former Arsenal and Liverpool man, the league's biggest-ever signing, did not start the game against Geylang because he has just recovered from a hamstring injury. He came on only in the second half.
It also did not help that the Stags were reduced to nine men after captain Noh Rahman (59th minute) and Yasir Hanapi (88th) were sent off.
In the thoroughly entertaining game, Geylang started the match strongly but it was the Stags who took the lead in the 13th minute when Jordan Webb finished past Geylang goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari after playing a neat one-two with new Tampines recruit Billy Mehmet.
Mehmet got on the scoresheet himself in the 34th minute after good work from Hafiz Abu Sujad down the left flank.
But immediately after the restart, the Eagles pulled one back as Amy Recha was given the time and space in the penalty box to finish at Izwan Mahbud's near post, with Tampines' defence caught napping.
Tampines failed to learn from their earlier mistake and in the 55th minute, Geylang equalised with Carlos Delgado scoring with a piledriver from outside the area after Tampines failed to clear their lines following a corner.
Geylang then seized the lead in the 79th minute when substitute Stanely Ng fired into the top corner after the ball fell kindly to him in the penalty area.
But the hosts did not give up and just seven minutes later, Yasir equalised with a stunning looping effort past Syazwan from a Mehmet pass.
The Stags will next take on Warriors at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday, while Geylang will host defending S-League champions Brunei DPMM at the Bedok Stadium a day later.