Woodlands Wellington picked up their second win of the 2014 S.League season on Friday after claiming an impressive 2-1 win over defending champions Tampines Rovers.
Chang Jo-yoon opened the scoring for the Rams at the Jalan Besar Stadium with a sublime curling effort in the tenth minute, but Shahdan Sulaiman fired Tampines level five minutes into the second half.
But six minutes later, Atsushi Shimono linked up well with Taufiq Ghani to restore Woodlands’ lead, which ultimately proved enough for the three points.
Having been beaten by Warriors FC and Home United in their last two matches, it looked as though Darren Stewart’s charges were in for another difficult night coming up against the Stags, who were looking to reclaim top spot from DPMM FC.
And it was Tampines who had the first chance of the match in the sixth minute when Aleksandar Duric showed a great burst of pace to lead a counterattack before playing the ball through to Noh Alam Shah, but Yazid Yasin did well to charge off his line and deny his opponent in a one-on-one situation.
Just four minutes later, the Rams broke the deadlock when Shafuan Sutohmoh played an excellent ball to pick out Chang inside the box; the South Korean cutting inside a challenge before curling a sublime effort into the top corner.
Alam Shah had another sighting at goal in the 12th minute when he reacted quickest after Yazid parried a long-range effort from Shahdan but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Milos Jevtic made a vital challenge to snuff the threat.
Chang then almost turned provider two minutes before the half-hour mark when he latched onto a throw-in and played an inventive ball over the top to Moon Soon-ho, but his usually-prolific compatriot wasted the chance by complete miskicking on the half-volley.
At the other end, Alam Shah, who was handed a place in the starting XI ahead of marquee signing Miljan Mrdakovic, looked determined to repay the faith shown in him by coach Salim Moin.
The ex-Singapore international came excruciatingly close to doing just that in the 37th minute when he found space inside the box to meet Anaz Hadee’s right-wing cross, only to see Yazid pull one a stunning save to tip his header onto the bar.
However, the Stags duly pulled level five minutes into the second half when Yazid raced out but was unable to gather Duric’s attempted through-pass; the ball bouncing off him and into the path of Shahdan, who made no mistake in guiding a left-footed shot into the unguarded net.
While some would have expected the equaliser to deal a real blow to Woodlands, they instead responded well and showed greater desire all across the park.
And six minutes later, they edged ahead once more after Taufiq played a brilliant pass to release Shimono, who raced down the right and advanced into the box before coolly slotting through the legs of Hyrulnizam Juma’at.
Woodlands then almost made it 3-1 in the 64th minute when Andy Ahmad was left in acres of space and tried to bend a shot into the far corner, but Hyrulnizam was equal to the task and managed to parry it to safety.
Six minutes later, it was Moon’s turn to threaten the opposition goal with a curling shot after the ball was laid back to him by Chang, but again Hyrulnizam made a smart stop to deny the Rams.
As the game entered its closing stages, Tampines mustered one final push in a bid to rescue something from the contest and Alam Shah came close with a looping shot from a tight angle in the 76th minute, only to see Yazid claw it away before it could creep it beneath the bar.
Eight minutes from time, the Stags’ best chance to force the draw arrived when Ismadi Mukhtar embarked on a terrific burst down the right before crossing to Duric but from two yards, the 43-year-old somehow headed over at the far post, allowing Woodlands to play out the remainder of the match and claim maximum points.
Tampines Rovers: Hyrulnizam Juma’at, Anaz Hadee, Abdil Qaiyyim, Norihiro Kawakami, Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Shahdan Sulaiman, Luis Closa (Miljan Mrdakovic 60’), Roberto Martinez (Shaiful Esah 60’), Aleksandar Duric, Noh Alam Shah (Ismadi Mukhtar 77’).
Woodlands Wellington: Yazid Yasin, Goh Swee Swee, Walid Lounis, Milos Jevtic, Rosman Sulaiman, Atsushi Shimono, Shafuan Sutohmoh, Moon Soon-ho (Sobrie Mazelan 87’), Taufiq Ghani, Andy Ahmad (Fadhil Noh 80’), Chang Jo-yoon (Farouq Farkhan 76’).