Tampines off to winning start in AFC Cup
|TAMPINES ROVERS||FELDA UNITED|
|(Son Yong Chan 64, Khairul Amri 83)||(Fazrul Hazli 87)|
They had to endure a nervy finish, but Tampines Rovers can be very pleased with their night's work at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
The Stags kicked off their AFC Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Malaysian side Felda United, a result that sent them top of Group G. Vietnam's Hanoi FC and Philippine side Ceres Negros drew 1-1 in Vietnam in the other match.
As a bonus, Tampines managed to keep star man Khairul Amri fresh for Sunday's S.League kick-off, when they take on Albirex Niigata in the Great Eastern Community Shield at the National Stadium.
Singapore's No. 1 striker came on as a substitute for the final 20 minutes and scored what turned out to be the winner in the 83rd minute, after Son Yong Chan had put them ahead in the 64th minute.
A thunderbolt by Fazrul Hazli three minutes before the end stunned the Stags, but they managed to hang on for the win.
Tampines achieved the victory despite new head coach Juergen Raab watching the match from the stands.
Stand-in coach Herman Zailani explained the German - who had replaced Akbar Nawas two weeks ago in a surprise move - was not feeling well.
"In a way, it was a nervy ending for us, but I felt we had already sewn up the game by then," said Herman.
"At that point, we were confident we would see the game out without conceding again."
Fazrul's goal from 25 metres was Felda's only shot on goal, underlining why they sit second from bottom in the Malaysian Super League.
They had set themselves up for a point, allowing Tampines much of the ball in the first half without really being threatening themselves.
The Stags opened the scoring in the 64th minute when Tampines debutant Raspreet Sandhu found space on the left wing and delivered a cross which Son headed into the bottom corner.
Amri, who was left on the bench because he was on the mend from a groin injury, came on in the 71st minute for Ivan Dzoni.
Twelve minutes later, he doubled his side's advantage, turning the ball in from close range after a blazing run on the right flank by Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi.
Said Felda caretaker coach Mohamad Nik: "Our players did a good job in the first half, but I told them (at half-time) we needed more discipline.
"But, in the second half, our central midfielders did not close down Tampines fast enough, and that's how they got their goals. Even though we pulled one goal back, there was not enough time for a second."