Stags count losses after win
Stags down to bare bones for return leg after edging out Ceres in ill-tempered affair
SEMI-FINAL, FIRST LEG
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Mustafic Fahrudin 12, Sufian Anuar 49)
CERES LA SALLE 1
(Bienvenido Morejon 17)
Tampines Rovers were missing the attacking verve of the suspended Yasir Hanapi and injured Fazrul Nawaz in last night's RHB Singapore Cup semi-final, first-leg match against Philippine side Ceres La Salle, but their manpower situation will get worse come Wednesday's return leg.
The Stags won 2-1 in a match that threatened to boil over at the Jurong West Stadium, with seven yellow cards and a red card flashed by referee Farhad Mohd, who also sent Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic to the stands.
The Stags will have to keep out Ceres in the second leg with just 12 players from their S.League squad available for selection, after captain Mustafic Fahrudin and defender Shakir Hamzah picked up bookings yesterday that rule them out of the return fixture at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Ceres started without three of their stars, Philippine internationals Stephan Schrock, Manuel Ott and Kevin Ingreso, who were all suspended for this match but will return on Wednesday.
The visitors were clearly livid with the refereeing in the ill-tempered affair.
Said Ceres technical director Ali Go, who stood in for Vidakovic at the post-match press conference: "Our coach has played eight seasons in La Liga, while coaching in both the first and second division there and it's the first time he's seen such one-sided calls.
"I know referees can have bad days… But this was ridiculous, the calls were all one-sided."
Vidakovic played for Real Betis as well as Osasuna between 1994 and 2001, and last coached Betis B in 2012.
"There was a red card (for Shakir in the 90th minute), but that was just a consolation. We will be looking at the video (today) and we want to have a meeting with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), maybe ask for a new set of referees (for the return leg)," said Go.
"We look up to the S.League, but the officiating is a shame. We will show (FAS) the evidence and let them decide for themselves."
Despite what they thought was poor refereeing, Ceres are only one goal behind in the tie and it could have been closer.
Tampines took just 12 minutes to open the scoring and in sensational fashion.
The Stags were awarded a free-kick in a seemingly non-threatening position, over 30 metres from goal, and up stepped Mustafic to send the ball flying into the top corner, past the flailing dive of Ceres goalkeeper Louie Casas.
But the lead lasted only five minutes.
Against the run of play, Ceres forward Bienvenido Morejon won possession in Tampines' defensive third, cut into the box and slotted home from a tight angle.
Referee Farhad also earned the ire of the home side on the stroke of half-time.
Jordan Webb was in an attacking position, twisting and turning on the left-wing area along the edge of the Ceres penalty box, when Farhad blew the whistle to end proceedings just as Webb crossed the ball.
Sufian Anuar diverted the resulting cross into the back of the net, only for it to be ruled out.
But Sufian did not take long to get on the scoresheet after the break, stabbing home after Ceres failed to clear their lines, to give Tampines the winning goal.
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas said: "I thought that (first effort by Sufian) should have been a goal, but the referee will have his reasons for that decision and, to be fair, they (the match officials) did well to calm things down. I'm okay with their performance."
Akbar, though, has bigger things to worry about.
"I will have only 10 outfield players and two goalkeepers to choose from for the next game (because of suspensions and injuries)," he said.
"It will be tough but, sometimes when we're down like this, the team stick together and keep fighting, so who knows?"
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Mustafic Fahrudin (Tampines Rovers)
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah, Jordan Webb, Izzdin Shafiq, Mustafic Fahrudin, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Billy Mehmet, Sufian Anuar (Jermaine Pennant 75)
- CERES LA SALLE: Louie Casas, Carlos Martinez (Jalsor Soriano 73), Kim Sang Min, Jason Sabio, Son Yong Chan, Martin Steuble, Arnie Pasinabo (Marwin Angeles 83), Paul Mulders, Patrick Reichelt, Jeffrey Christiaens, Bienvenido Morejon.