The pre match hype was all about former Singapore Captain Noh Alam Shah making his return to the S-League after clearing his beep test on his first attempt earlier on Tuesday morning, but it was Sead Hadzibulic who stole the headlines with his first hat trick in domestic football competitions.
The Serbian forward, a mid season signing may just well be a late run-in for top individual awards after notching a hat-trick against Woodlands Wellington, to bring his tally to five goals in just three games.
His first goal came in the 15th minute when he sent a 25m screamer into the top right hand corner of the net beating Woodlands custodian Ahmadulhaq Che Omar.
Tampines’ second goal arrived on 39 minutes, when Hadzibulic coolly slotted the ball past Ahmad despite three defenders surrounding him. The Tampines No.10 completed his hat-trick in front of 495 fans present at the Woodlands Stadium in the 84th minute, when was tasked with the simplest of tap-ins at the far post into goal. A goal mouth melee saw Fabien Lewis’ clearance bounced right onto Hudzibulic’s path and he made no mistake from close range.
For his hat-trick achievement, Hadzibulic was not able to keep the match ball though, as it’s not the practice of the S-League (Perhaps due to the shortage of footballs?) to give away the match ball for players who achieved that feat.
Had any player been the likeliest to put himself onto the score sheet, it would have been the evergreen Aleksandar Duric, who rounded Ahmad in the 41st minute. The Singapore International shot straight onto the path of back peddling Daniel Hammond from six yards out.
The moment everyone was waiting for arrived in the 68th minute when Tampines made their second substitution with Noh Alam Shah making his first S-League appearance after three years playing inIndonesia.
If anything was to go by, from the moment Noh Alam Shah did his warm up to the moment that the emcee announced his entry into the game, the response from the Tampines fans showed just how much this man meant to Tampines.
The way the fans cheered and applauded was something not seen in the S-League for a long while. “Ah Long” almost marked his “homecoming” in style during stoppage time but his effort sailed over the crossbar.
With the win, Tampines moved to the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S-League table with 32 points, two more than Albirex Niigata (S) who host Brunei DPMM (29 points) on Wednesday evening.
Speaking to aXrosstheline.com after the game, Tampines Rovers head coached admitted that he has an eye on Friday’s away game against Tanjong Pagar.
“It’s always three points first then the goals.”
“The boys had tried their best to score as many goals as possible,” Steven said.
His counterpart, Woodlands Wellington’s assistant coach Clement Teo said: “The team gave away the first two goals, but it was a much better performance in the second half.”
On the most talked about player in S-league at the moment, both coaches agree that “Ah Long” will make an impact but will need some time to bond with the rest of his team mates.
Other S-league score:
Balestier Khalsa 0-3 Hougang United