News • May 10, 2016

AFC Cup: Stags Secure Spot In Round Of 16, Tigers Crash Out


Written by: Nicholas Wong

Tampines Rovers booked their spot in the Round of 16 of the 2016 AFC Cup after grinding out a 1-0 win over Selangor FA at the National Stadium on Tuesday night, while Balestier Khalsa crashed out after losing 4-0 to Kitchee SC in Hong Kong.

The Stags, who needed a win to progress from Group E, tested Selangor custodian Khairul Azwan just three minutes into the game when the goalkeeper had to punch out Jermaine Pennant’s dangerous corner-kick before the ball could reached a Tampines player.

Woeful defending from Selangor in dealing with a Pennant’s free-kick into the 18-yard box three minutes later gave an unmarked Izzdin Shafiq space and time to take a shot from 20-yards out. However, the Singaporean’s piledriver flew high and over the crossbar.

The Stags wasted a glorious opportunity to draw first blood in the 11th minute when a wonderful pin-point cross from Noh Rahman found Billy Mehmet, but the striker’s header flew narrowly over the crossbar.

Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud’s agility was put to the test in the 23rd minute when he had to quickly pedal backwards to tip over Robert Cornthwaite’s header which looked destined for the back of the net.

Good build-up play from the hosts in the 31st minute ended with Pennant chipping the ball into the 18-yard box for Yasir Hanapi, whose volley at goal was saved by Khairul.

However, the Stags broke the deadlock a minute later when Yasir picked up Mehmet’s lay-off at the edge of the box and curled the ball into the top corner of the net, with Khairul rooted to the spot.

Tampines could have doubled their lead five minutes before the break when another one of Mehmet’s lay-off found Shahdan Sulaiman, but the midfielder’s ferocious curling strike at goal was punched cleared by Khairul.

Izwan then got down well at his near post to push away Mauro Olivi’s free-kick in first-half stoppage time to ensure that the Stags went into the break with the lead.

The Red Giants started brightly after the interval and almost pulled level in the 49th minute when an unmarked Shahrom Kalam was allowed to shoot at goal inside the 18-yard box after Tampines failed to clear their lines from a Selangor corner, but the Malaysian’s shot was failed to trouble Izwan.

The woodwork denied Tampines from scoring a second goal seven minutes after the hour mark when a ferocious left-foot strike by Hafiz Sujad from outside the box crashed off the post with Khairul beaten.

There was controversy four minutes from time after Mehmet was sent off for allegedly arguing with Olivi, but replays suggested that it could possibly be a case of mistaken identity.

There was a final chance for Selangor to pull level in stoppage time though, but Patrick Welh’s ambitious acrobatic bicycle kick from six yards out went narrowly wide.

Over at Mongkok Stadium, a brace from Rufino Segovia as well as goals from Jordi Tarres and Cheng Chin Lung helped Kitchee defeat Balestier to progress to the last 16 at the expense of the Tigers.

Tarres opened the scoring for the Hong Kongers after turning home Rufino’s cross from close-range five minutes before the break, before the latter grabbed his first by tapping home Lo Kwan Yee’s low cross just two minutes into the second period.

The match was well and truly over for the visitors when a one-two between Rufino and Tong Kin Man ended with the Spaniard poking home the defender’s cut-back.

Substitute Cheng scored Kitchee’s fourth after latching on to Lam Ka Wai’s defence-splitting pass and lobbing the ball over Balestier custodian Zaiful Nizam.

Photo by AFC