League Cup: Lone Subhi goal downs Jaguars
Ko Po Hui
Photography by Aundry Gan
Tanjong Pagar United have been guilty of conceding early goals several times this season, and a lack of finishing touch up front has often further impeded their attempts to get positive results as well.
Those aspects of their game came to the fore once again in their StarHub League Cup Group A match against Bruneian side DPMM FC on Sunday evening, leaving them to settle for a 0-1 result at the end of the 90 minutes.
They may still have something of a lifeline as far as achieving glory is concerned, for finishing at the foot of the group puts them in the newly-established plate series for all teams that placed bottom in their respective groups.
Of course, it would be sweeter for Jaguars coach Terry Pathmanathan if his men could be more clinical in front of goal, so as to at least force a draw that their spirited display – especially in the second half – would have deserved.
Yet when DPMM wingback Subhi Abdilah crashed his close-range effort home amid a melee in the Tanjong Pagar box with only seven minutes gone, the fate of the Queenstown-based club was very much sealed.
This was a team goal, after Ivan Jerkovic did his part to whip in a free kick on the left and Tales dos Santos used his towering frame to good effect to nod the ball down to Subhi.
Even then, Pathmanathan was of the view that his players had fallen short.
“The goalkeeper fumbled, and he admitted it,” he revealed at the post-match interview, referring to the well-travelled Fajar Sarib standing in the Tanjong Pagar goal.
He then shifted his focus towards his entire team, proving to be even-handed in the way he dealt out both praise and criticism.
“We played extremely well, but like I mentioned before, when the defenders are playing badly, they conceded goals, and it’s sad to lose by giving away those soft goals,” he told sleague.com.
“Then we charged up and worked so hard trying to come back, it’s really tough that we are just losing games. It’s not about lack of training or effort; everything was carried out well, and these guys had worked extremely hard in the training sessions.
“I don’t know, I can only wait for the day when the rot will stop, and I can only pray hard for it to stop. We are doing everything within our means, anything possible to win our games.”
The lack of bite up front was apparent as the Jaguars managed all of two notable chances in the first half, as the DPMM backline was excellently commanded by centreback dos Santos and had the safe hands of Wardun Yussof ready at any time.
It helped, of course, that the Wasps played for numbers at the back, leaving the men in red and white with few options but to participate in a lottery of long-range shots.
Mid-season signing Carlos Delgado had a 30-yard attempt smothered with ease by Wardun on 22 minutes, while nippy winger Asraf Abdul Rashid’s dead-ball attempt on 35 minutes was just inches over the bar.
Nonetheless, with Delgado gradually showing composure in the second half, it was a matter of time before he would link up with Hafiz Nor, who on two occasions managed to ruffle the Bruneian defence.
A quickly-taken free kick by the Argentine on 62 minutes was latched on to by Hafiz on the right flank, and the 23-year-old sent a wicked-looking cross into the heart of the DPMM defence, where Rosmin Kamis was on hand inside the six-yard box to cut the ball away.
Still, the one-time Home United winger showed he was not done yet when he got into the thick of another attacking play that almost levelled the scores six minutes later.
Upon receiving Takaya Kawanabe’s pass to his domain on the right, Hafiz whipped in another cross that was met perfectly by Delgado, but Wardun proved a huge stumbling block.
Pathmanathan appreciated the importance of those opportunities.
“We knew we’d have few chances in the game, so against a team like DPMM, when one came by, we must punish them,” said the 56-year-old.
“There’s no excuse for you to miss them, but then we kept missing them. While I’m happy with my team’s performance, because they fought hard till the last minute, I’m just sad to say that I can’t accept the result.”
For the Wasps, especially their head coach Vjeran Simunic, victory over Tanjong Pagar asked for little other than a muted celebration.
The Croat in particular was keen to play down talk about them reaching the final or even lifting the trophy they had won in 2009.
“I don’t think of that again,” he said.
“I’m just glad that we survived, because the game almost ended 1-1 and Tanjong Pagar could have scored many goals!
“I was expecting a strong Tanjong Pagar side, but even then they surprised me tonight, as they played very aggressively and held us for 90 minutes. It was a hard game.
“We were lucky to score early, but it could have been more goals if not for Tanjong Pagar, who defended well. They have excellent import players like the No.16 (Gilbert Bayonne), Delgado and Kawanabe.”