The Lion City Sailors got the job done with a gritty performance, securing a 3-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) on Sunday (7 July) evening at the Bishan Stadium.

With the win, the Sailors – who dropped points for the first time this season following their 1-1 draw with Geylang International last Friday (28 June) – moved back to the top of the table, leapfrogging BG Tampines Rovers on goal difference.

The Sailors wasted no time in asserting their dominance over the Jaguars from the get-go, getting off to a perfect start when Maxime Lestienne gave them the lead after just two minutes with a precise left-footed curler.

The goal, which was assisted by Shawal Anuar, marked the fifth straight game in which Maxime has scored in the SPL this season.

Just three minutes after Maxime’s goal, Hami Syahin had the chance to double the Sailors’ lead when he beat his defender with a slick L-drag, only to see his shot go wide from close range.

In the 23rd minute, new Sailors signing Lennart Thy saw his goalbound effort blocked by a crowd of Tanjong Pagar defenders. This led to the visitors launching a counterattack which culminated in Zenivio Mota – the first Timor Leste player in the SPL – crossing the ball for Frenchman Salif Cissé, whose volleyed effort was well held by Sailors custodian Zharfan Rohaizad.

Midfielder Adam Swandi, who made his return to the Sailors starting line-up, staked his claim for a more regular role in the first-11 with a dazzling display, as he wowed the crowd with his skill and confidence on the ball throughout the first-half. And the 28-year-old was rewarded for his endeavour with a goal in the 41st minute, volleying home Maxime’s cross into the bottom corner of the net to double the Sailors’ lead.

“Starting a game means a lot to me, and I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can,” said Adam. “I’m happy to get a goal for myself, but of course, all the credit goes back to the team – Hariss (Harun) picked up a loose ball, Lennart created space in front of me, and Maxime, as always, created the chance. I just told myself to get some contact on the ball, and since it was near the goal, anything can happen.”

Despite holding a comfortable two-goal lead, the Sailors were determined not to rest on their laurels and immediately looked to extend their advantage in the second half, with Maxime’s 49th minute free-kick rattling the crossbar.

Christopher van Huizen reacted quickest to reach the loose ball, but his shot was parried by Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper Prathip Ekamparam. The rebound fell to Shawal, but the Singapore international lost his footing at the crucial moment, allowing the Tanjong Pagar defence to clear the danger.

At the other end of the pitch, Cissé missed several good opportunities to pull a goal back for Tanjong Pagar. The closest chance came in the 69th minute when his header from close range sailed over the bar.

Cissé’s misses ultimately proved costly for Tanjong Pagar as the Sailors secured all three points with a third goal in the 84th minute when Bailey Wright rose highest to head home Adam Swandi’s corner.

Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković was ultimately pleased to secure the win, and highlighted Adam for his impressive performance, which earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

He said, “We scored three goals, got the three points and a clean sheet, so I’m glad the guys did their job. I’m happy that Adam stepped up for us today – he scored a goal and played a good game.”

Adam acknowledged that the Sailors could have performed better on the night, but credited the team for holding firm to deny Tanjong Pagar any chance of an upset and claiming a second clean sheet in the league this season.

“We are happy because we achieved our target of getting all three points today. Of course, there are still lots of things for us to work on on the pitch, and we are training hard every single day to correct it,” Adam elaborated.

“It’s never a perfect game… sometimes it’s scrappy like today. Certain aspects of our game did not click well but the biggest thing for us is to not concede goals. Everyone worked really hard to get the clean sheet today, and it gives us a morale boost for the upcoming games.”

Next up for the Sailors is a home game against fourth-placed Balestier Khalsa on Saturday (13 July).