SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Tanjong Pagar 1
Lion City Sailors 1
Big-spending Lion City Sailors were held to a 1-1 draw by returning Tanjong Pagar United at the Jurong East Stadium yesterday, in their first Singapore Premier League (SPL) match.
The Sailors, who became Singapore’s first privatised football club after local billionaire Forrest Li and his tech firm Sea took ownership of former SPL club Home United last month, signed top national players like goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman and forward Gabriel Quak to spearhead their charge for the SPL title.
Watched by Li and a crowd of 2,723, Tanjong Pagar, a side cobbled together only in late January after a five-year sit-out due to financial woes, took a shock lead in the 26th minute through Brazilian defender Yann Motta.
A corner by Jaguars left-back Takahiro Tanaka evaded a sea of bodies in the penalty box before Motta stole in to put his side in front from close range.
Coach Aurelio Vidmar, however, insisted he was not frustrated.
“The first half I was concerned because it took us a long time to get going but, in the second, I had no issues at all,” said the former Australia Under-23 coach.
“We controlled the game, created some chances, Gabriel hit the post, Shahril (Ishak) hit the bar, and that little bit of luck you need sometimes, it just didn’t happen for us tonight.”
Tanjong Pagar gave as good as they got and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.
The Sailors enjoyed more possession but appeared to lack cohesion. They pulled a goal back just before half-time when Quak did well to beat his marker and crossed for Andy Pengelly to head the equaliser from six metres out.
The star-studded Sailors side returned in the second half with an improved showing and struck the woodwork twice, but failed to find the elusive winner.
First, Quak rocked the upright with a thundering shot from the edge of the area in the 71st minute, before substitute Shahril Ishak saw his effort from close range come off the crossbar in injury time, to ensure both sides left the game with a share of the spoils.
Jaguars coach Hairi Su’ap, grinning from ear to ear, told members of the media snapping pictures of him post-match: “You should take photos of my boys, not me.
“They’re the ones that showed the character and discipline out there, and covered every blade of grass on the pitch. All I have to do now is smile and enjoy the rest of the night.”
In Bandar Seri Begawan, champions Brunei DPMM beat Tampines Rovers 2-0 with goals by Charlie Clough and Andrei Varankou.