AFC Champions League: Tampines Rovers' debut ends in 2-0 defeat by Gamba Osaka
|(Anderson Patric 26, Leandro Pereira 88)|
The statistics told only one side of the story: Tampines Rovers finished their maiden Asian Football Confederation Champions League match with 57.9 per cent possession last night.
It is an impressive figure considering they were up against Japanese giants Gamba Osaka.
Unfortunately, another set of numbers – two goals to Osaka to none for the Singapore Premier League side – proved the more decisive.
Still, it was a creditable outing in Tashkent’s Lokomotiv Stadium for the Stags. After all, many neutrals had expected a rout, with Gamba being last year’s J-League runners-up although they lie 17th this year.
The Japanese were also making their 10th appearance in the competition, which included being winners in 2008.
But Tampines coach Gavin Lee cast reputations aside, starting with two 19-year-olds in Marc Ryan Tan and Ryaan Sanizal despite their opponents fielding current and former Japanese internationals Gen Shoji, Yosuke Ideguchi, Genta Miura and Takashi Usami, who have a combined 72 appearances for the national team.
Despite some early jitters, the Stags dominated possession and passed their way out of Gamba’s aggressive pressing on countless occasions.
But they were left to rue the goals they conceded in similar fashion, in each half. In the 26th minute, Tan was unable to prevent Hiroki Fujiharu from whipping in a cross for Anderson Patric to head past Syazwan Buhari in goal.
The Brazilian attacker rose above Ryaan and his header took a nick off Daniel Bennett before finding the back of the net.
In the 88th minute, it was another cross that found its way to substitute Leandro Pereira, who headed in unmarked to seal the win.
“We are proud of our performance... We showed we can compete (at this level),” said Lee.
“The first game would always be the hardest because it’s our first time on this stage and against a quality opponent. Hopefully we adapt to this level quickly.
“The boys came out and played without any mental barriers. We controlled our build-up well and made a few decisive errors in the final third.”
The Stags’ next match will see them taking on Thai FA Cup winners Chiangrai United on Monday.