Selangor confident of progress at Tampines' expense
Selangor coach Zainal does not believes Tampines have advantage playing at National Stadium
Tampines Rovers might not be firing on all cylinders in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and their cash-flow issues have been well documented.
But Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan refused to be thrown off by all these distractions ahead of the AFC Cup Group E finale against the Stags, which will be played at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Speaking to The New Paper from Shah Alam, where the 54-year-old Malaysian played in the veteran curtain-raiser of the Sultan of Selangor Cup series last night, he said: "This is a match Tampines have to win to qualify for the next round.
"They want it as badly as us and, playing at the National Stadium, they will be pumped up."
V Sundramoorthy's side made a promising start to their campaign by winning their first two matches - a 4-0 home win over Bangladesh's Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi and a 1-0 away win at Selangor - and drew 1-1 with the Philippines' Ceres La Salle to reach seven points at the halfway mark. But it has since gone pear-shaped for the Stags.
They lost the return leg 2-1 at Ceres before Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi shocked them 3-2 in Dhaka to find themselves on the brink of elimination, unless they can beat Selangor on Tuesday.
A draw would see the Malaysian side progress as runners-up to Ceres at Tampines' expense.
Noting that the change of venue from Jalan Besar could cancel out homeground advantage for the Stags in terms of pitch familiarity, Zainal told TNP his side will not be coming here for just a point.
"A draw is good enough for us, so the pressure is not on us to win. But we will be playing our normal game, which is attacking football," he said.
"Whether it is a win or a draw, I'm confident we will get the result necessary to go through as we have good morale after beating a high-flying T-Team 2-1 on Wednesday."
Selangor are traditional Malaysian football powerhouses, but have found themselves playing second fiddle to nouveau riche Johor Darul Ta'zim in recent years.
Even when the Red Giants won their record 33rd Malaysia Cup title last year, that achievement was overshadowed by JDT I winning the AFC Cup, the first time an Asean team have accomplished the feat.
Selangor's league form has also been patchy, as 18 points from 10 games are good enough for only third place behind Felda United and JDT I.
Fans are also frustrated with the mediocre output of 27 goals in 17 games in all competitions.
They looked set for an early exit from the AFC Cup, with Zainal's position also thrown into uncertainty, until Tampines' recent capitulation in the competition handed them a lifeline.
"Being a big team is not easy as our opponents are always at their best when they play us," said their Liberian striker Patrick Wleh, who backed his coach to turn things around.
"It has been very tough to meet expectations. Fans expect us to score five goals in every match.
"As a striker, it is huge pressure for me. We are fighting for the coach and trying to get results to turn things around. We believe in Zainal."
The Malaysian legend does have a pretty decent record against Singaporean sides, especially the LionsXII, from which Tampines have signed almost half of their squad from.
In his time with Pahang as manager, assistant coach and head coach, he took on the LionsXII 11 times and came away with five wins and one draw.
"Of course, it is good to have as much knowledge of your opponents as possible," said Zainal.
"I will pass on whatever I know to my team. We have shown a lot improvement since suffering three straight losses in March, and we are unbeaten in our last five matches.
"Our defence is doing a lot better and we are still creating many chances in attack, so I believe we will come through Tuesday and qualify."
Support Tampines at national stadium
The Causeway rivalry is back!
Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League giants Tampines Rovers take on Malaysia's Selangor in a must-win AFC Cup Group E clash at the National Stadium at 7pm on Tuesday.
It is the first time a local club are playing at the 55,000-seater venue since it opened its doors in 2014.
In partnership with the Football Association of Singapore, The New Paper is giving away 10 pairs of tickets to 10 lucky readers.
To stand a chance of winning the tickets, simply answer the following question:
l V Sundramoorthy is the coach of Tampines Rovers. True or false?
E-mail your answer, together with your full name, NRIC number (last four digits without the alphabet) and contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon tomorrow.
The winners will be picked in a random draw and will be notified by the FAS to collect the prizes.
WHAT: AFC Cup Group E Tampines v Selangor
WHEN: Tuesday, 7pm
WHERE: National Stadium
- Adult: $10
- Concession (students aged 16 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above): $4
- Bundle package: 20 per cent discount for purchase of 20 adult tickets and above
- Family bundle (2 Adult + 2 Concession): $24
HOW TO BUY
- Online: www.sportshubtix.sg
- Hotline: 31587888
- Box office: Singapore Indoor Stadium
- Outlets: All SingPost outlets islandwide