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Stags' title hopes took a dent after 2-0 loss to Warriors

Agu Casmir (left) scored the first goal
Tampines Rovers' hopes of retaining the S.League title suffered a massive setback with a 2-0 defeat in the titanic clash against fellow title contender Warriors FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Prior to this rain delayed fixture, the Stags were given two opportunities to dethrone league leaders Brunei DPMM from the summit in the recent days, but defeat at home to Tanjong Pagar United that was followed by a draw away against Albirex Niigata (Singapore) had set this "do-or-die" battle for the reigning champions.

This televised match was delayed for close to two hours due to the activation of the Lightning Warning System (LWS) because of the downpour around the scheduled kick-off time.

Tribute to late Lee Kok Seng
The match eventually got off approximately fifteen minutes past nine when the sky cleared up for the match that was preceded by a minute of silence tribute to late Lee Kok Seng, the former national skipper who passed away recently.

Warriors, being the designated hosts for this Friday fixture wasted little effort to state their intentions with an early goal in the 13th minute.

Former Singapore international Agu Casmir opened the account for his side when he maximized the opportunity gifted by the poor ball controlling of defender Abdil Qaiyyim just outside the eighteen yard before steered clear of his marker to drive it low to home.

Beattie (6) celebrates after his goal
Hafiz Rahim sandwiched inside between
Thomas Beattie was the next to place his name on the list when the 27-year-old Englishman finished off from inside the six-yard amid a meelee that was caused by a well taken free-kick from Hafiz Rahim on the left following a foul committed by Tampines' Shahdan Sulaiman on Zulfadli Zainal.

The Stags, on the other hand, were trying to get themselves back into the match but just could not match the level of play set by their opponents and also the waterlogged surface that deterred them from playing their fluent passing game that only shown much improvement in the second half by raiding the Warriors fortress that was well marshalled by skipper Daniel Bennett with the commanding presence of Hassan Sunny at goal.

Alam Shah (Yellow) tried his best to not avail
Aerial Duel
By the time when the game was called for a close, Tampines Rovers knew too well that it would be an arduous task ahead for them to keep hold of the trophy they have caretaking for the last three seasons.

Yet, Stags coach Rafi Ali opined that the title race is far from over in his post match assessment.

Said the former Singapore midfielder:"We still have five games to play and anything can happen that just like boxing, I am not throwing the towel till I am knocked out,

"It's also a welcome break for us (after this game) and we hope those injured players (i.e.: Shaiful Esah, Kunihiro Yamashita, etc.) will come back in time, so that we can have a full squad to choose from."

"I thought second half we played what we wanted, which I am happy with the performance and in the first half, we were fighting but were let down by the waterlogged pitch. Furthermore, against a team like Warriors we can't afford to make any mistake that I felt the first goal was due to poor ball control with the second goal due to lapse of concentration."

Rafi - not throwing the towel
Echoed the same sentiment like his counterpart, Warriors coach Alex Weaver refused to write off the title chances of the other despite the convincing result that elevated his side to be the "chosen one" against the Bruneians ahead the rest.

"We cannot write off teams like Tampines Rovers and Home United at this stage, as Tampines are the champions for the last few years, which we set our target to achieve what they had achieved and I hope we could turn it in for the Warriors but it takes time." said the former Hougang United coach in the post-match media briefing.

Touching on the game, the Englishman credited the performance for the team cohesiveness in carrying out the game plan.

"We always wanted to start off brightly and positively in our game, in which I thought we did that in the absorbing, defended well and worked tactically as a unit that it's very pleasing to see that."

Hassan - "No GO" to Incheon
On the side note, Coach Weaver revealed Hassan will not be released by the club should the custodian be named in the Asian Games squad that is due to be announced soon, given the club priority that he opined they have been accommodating to Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) previous requests till this day.