Gombak 1 Tampines 4 | Bulls floored by late strikes

Posted on January 23, 2011

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On paper, this looks like a bad defeat for Gombak. Of course, getting beaten by three clear goals at home is never a good thing, but as it sometimes is in pre-season, the result was not a fair reflection of what in essence was an even game for two teams with fairly settled squads.

Gombak matched Tampines for long periods, with both sides experimenting with different systems in the second half, but were undone by conceding three goals in the final 15 minutes. By then, Gombak had half a dozen Prime League boys on the pitch, while Tampines still had a full compliment of 11 senior players, and the advantage of experience clearly showed.

The Starting XIs

Gombak started with their regular 4-4-2, although Aloysius Yap – a central midfielder – began on the left. Striker Chang Jo Yoon, who had a very good game having been given the license to work the channels, often drifted into space on the left to give Gombak some width on the attack.

Tampines lined up in their trademark 3-4-1-2, with Jamil Ali in the central playmaker’s role behind strikers Ahmad Latiff and Aleksandar Duric. Taufiq Rahmat started at left wingback but came off after sustaining an injury on 15 minutes.

First half: An evenly matched affair

Gombak took the lead through Park Kang Jin after 20 minutes. Chang, who had done well to earn space on the right hand side just outside the penalty area, sent a clever dinked cross for his fellow South Korean who rifled home a low shot past Hafez Mawasi.

Tampines would respond just eight minutes later, their right wingback Jufri Taha sweeping home after Benoit Croissant’s header was parried by Gombak goalkeeper Zakariah Nerani. Jufri did well to exploit the space in front of him allowed by Aloysius’s narrow positioning, and earlier in the 5th minute he burst into the box and sent a good cutback to Duric, who fluffed his lines and missed the target from 10 yards out.

Second half: Both sides experiment

Both sides started the second 45 minutes with markedly different shapes.

Darren Stewart withdrew Md Riduan, Chang’s partner upfront, and introduced Zulkifli Hassim who took up position on the left hand side where his team were exposed in the first half. Aloysius moved infield to partner Park K J in a straightforward central midfield pairing while Ridhwan Jamaludin played further forward. As a result, they played in a 4-4-1-1.

Tampines made 5 changes, and although all the substitutions were straight swops, they played with a variation of their 3-4-1-2, which looked more like a 3-4-3. Aliff Shahfaein, who had come on for Jamil Ali, took up a wide position on the left while Latiff moved outwards to the right, in a lateral three-man attack.

My assessment of this change is that Tampines perceive Shahdan Sulaiman, on for Shukor Zailan, has a better range of passing and more attacking ambition, so a central playmaker was not necessary. Shahdan, then would be expected to play in an ‘Andrea Pirlo’, deep playmaker role.

Chang did well again in the opening minutes of the second half. Within the first couple of minutes he fooled Seiji Kaneko with a swivel of the hips and turn of pace to earn a 1 v 1 against Hassan, who did well to save, and tested Hassan again from the edge of the box minutes later.

Unfortunately, both sides did not create much for the 30 minutes or so which they played in these experiment formations. The only real difference came in the final 15 minutes.

Last quarter of an hour: Goal rush for Stags

As the game began to peter out, and with the scores still at one apiece, Darren Stewart began to ring in the changes. He took Chang and Park K J off for two Prime League forwards, and reverted to the 4-4-2 formation in the first half. Ridhwan J, Ruhaizad, Aloysius and Jeremy Chiang all also came off during this time for PL players. Tampines also changed back into the 3-4-1-2, with Aliff playing his regular role as central playmaker.

These changes proved to be significant.

With 15 minutes to go, Gombak failed to clear their lines from a freekick and Imran Sahib pinged a cross into the box, where an unmarked Park Yo Seb found himself with time and space to slot home after the Gombak defence’s offside trap failed miserably.

Five minutes later, Latiff earned a freekick 20 meters from goal due to a clumsy challenge by the PL player who replaced Ridhwan J. The thunder-thighed Latiff dusted himself off, stepped up and sent a classic curler into the far corner of Zakariah’s goal from just left of centre.

And the ‘rout’ was complete in injury time when Ismadi Mukhtar’s foray into the Bull’s box saw the ball fall nicely at his feet after the Gombak defence fluffed their clearance. The former Woodlands winger coolly slotted from close range.

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, there is little one can gain from looking at this scoreline. The match was an even contest for about 75 minutes, before a scenario of ‘men against boys’ played itself out.

The match was a good contest of seeing how far along the two teams are in their preparations for the new season. Tampines, as always, look very settled and every player knows their role in their trademark system. They’ve confirmed the retention of their four foreigners early again, and look more or less ready for 2011. Aliff and Latiff still need to pass their beep test though.

Gombak are on the right track but there are several issues still to settle. First choice goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam is still deemed a week or two away from returning from the ACL injury which kept him out of the Asian Games last year, Ismail Yunos is miles away from returning from a similar injury, while Jaslee Hatta would have partnered Obadin Aikhena in defence had he not fallen ill earlier in the day. Shafuan Sutohmoh has not passed his beep test and Gombak’s policy of not fielding players who haven’t passed in friendlies meant Stewart had a thin squad to rotate in this game.

I’m sure when these two sides meet again at Jalan Besar on 18 Feb in their first game of the 2011 S.League, they’ll be close to their optimum potential. And that would make for quite a mouthwatering clash.

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Posted in: Friendly, Gombak, Tampines