Tampines vow to reach semis
Tampines believe semi-final spot is achievable
Q-FINAL, SECOND LEG
TAMPINES ROVERS v BENGALURU FC
(Tonight 7.20pm, Singtel TV Ch 114 & StarHub TV Ch 208)
* Bengaluru lead 1-0 from first leg
They have failed to find the back of the net twice in the last two games, will be without injured attacking duo Fazrul Nawaz and Shahdan Sulaiman, and will start tonight's game chasing a one-goal deficit.
Tampines Rovers have vowed that all guns will be blazing when they step out onto the Jalan Besar Stadium to face Bengaluru FC in the second leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final, but there will be no harried pulling of triggers.
Stags coach Akbar Nawas has called for calm, even as his charges chase a spot in history.
A win over Bengaluru will see Tampines become only the third S.League side since Home United and Geylang International to qualify for the semi-finals of the second-tier regional tourney.
Stags coach Akbar Nawas (left). TNP FILE PHOTO
Both Geylang and Home managed the feat in 2004, in the inaugural tournament, a feat no Singapore side have matched since.
"We have no choice, we have to go all out to score a goal. Yes, we are one goal down; yes, if they score (an away goal) we will have to score three; but we must not rush things," said Akbar.
"If there's one thing we must get right, it's that we have to be composed."
Akbar will make sure his charges take a collective deep breath before they step out onto the Jalan Besar stage, but with history beckoning, he acknowledges that the heat is on.
"Let's not kid ourselves, even if you are a national player, there will be butterflies in your stomach. It's like that even for me, as a coach of the team," he said.
"It's just a matter of how we deal with it, and that's my job, to relieve the players of the pressure."
Tonight will only be Bengaluru coach Albert Roca's second game in charge, but the 53-year-old - who won two La Liga titles and a Uefa Champions League crown between 2003 and 2008 as Frank Rijkaard's assistant at Barcelona - will make sure Tampines will not be having a walk in the park.
Bengaluru coach Albert Roca. TNP FILE PHOTO
His first game in charge was last Wednesday's first-leg victory.
"We've spent these last six weeks just trying to create a bit of a new style, and it's not always easy. But all the players have been trying to grasp new concepts, and I have to be happy about that," he said.
"They tried, and they showed in the first leg that they can do it. We have to be brave and play like what we did in the first leg."
An aggressive Bengaluru side prevented Tampines from exerting much of their influence in Bangalore last week, and all signs point to a similar approach this time out.
"Tampines have very experienced players who can put us in trouble… and they'll be aggressive and try and score, but let's see if that will give us an opportunity to score," said Roca.
Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud told local media that the mood in the club's dressing room is positive, with the team looking forward to erase memories of the first leg defeat.
But the chance of making history was not lost on the 26-year-old. "This is a do-or-die match for us, and it could be our most important match of the season," said Izwan.
"We have a chance at making history."
This is a door- die match for us, and it could be our most important match of the season. We have a chance at making history.
— Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud
We have no choice, we have to go all out to score a goal... but we must not rush things.
— Tampines coach Akbar Nawas
We have to be brave and play like what we did in the first leg.
— Bengaluru coach Albert Roca
JDT I in AFC Cup semi-finals
JDT I 2
SOUTH CHINA 1
Defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim I beat Hong Kong's South China 2-1 at Larkin Stadium last night to win 3-2 on aggregate and advance to the AFC Cup semi-finals.
Singapore star midfielder Hariss Harun came close to opening the scoring in the first half, only for Leung Hing Kit to parry his goal-bound shot. Leung also saved Safiq Rahim's penalty in the second half.
But the Malaysian Super League champions would not be denied as Martin Lucero scored in the 57th minute via a deflected effort, and after striking the woodwork twice, Pereyra Diaz settled the tie with an 89th-minute header despite Nikola Komazac's late consolation goal.
The Southern Tigers will now meet either Singapore's Tampines Rovers or India's Bengaluru FC, who play their second leg at Jalan Besar tonight.