Jermaine Pennant 'didn't warrant start' in Singapore Cup final

Former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant didn't warrant a starting place in the Tampines Rovers side in Saturday night's Singapore Cup final, according to head coach Akbar Nawas.

Tampines crashed to a 2-0 defeat to S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium, with eyebrows raised at the absence of the ex-England Under-21 star from the run-on side in his farewell appearance. He came on as a substitute in the 68th minute, but made little impact as the Japanese outfit cruised to victory.

But Akbar said he would make the same decision again "1,000 times over" about the 33-year-old, who will now leave the club with immediate effect.

"No regrets [about leaving Pennant out] ... none at all," Akbar said. "I would do it 1,000 times [over].

"The [pundits and fans] see Jermaine Pennant as a player who has played [UEFA] Champions League football, whatever.

"I see him in training. And I see the whole team in training, and I have to pick the best 11 to start the game."

Pennant, who is reportedly the highest paid player in S.League history, joined Tampines in January after a successful trial. Despite a star-studded squad, the Stags failed to win a trophy in 2016, and were knocked out of the AFC Cup in the quarterfinals by unfancied Indian side, Bengaluru FC.

When Pennant replaced Yasir Hanapi with 22 minutes to go, Tampines trailed Albirex 1-0. Instead of his once familiar wing position, Pennant dropped into a deep, playmaker position, similar to Wayne Rooney's recent role for Manchester United.

Albirex put the game beyond reach with Kento Nagasaki's goal on the break, with three minutes remaining.

Akbar hinted that even if Pennant had started the game, he would have had little impact on the result. Without him, Tampines defeated Albirex 5-1 in an S.League match last Wednesday.

"He had his chance in the last 30 minutes to turn the game around... You decide if he did that," Akbar said.