Tampines Rovers 4 (Aleksandar Duric 41’, 61’ Jamil Ali 45’, Imran Sahib 45’)
Phnom Penh (Cambodia) 3 (Khim Borey 14’, Kouch Sokumpheak 57, 59)
Tampines booked their place into the next round of the RHB Singapore Cup with a 4-3 win over Cambodian outfit Phnom Penh Crown at the Clementi Stadium last night. It was, however, not the easiest of wins for the defending S.League champions as the Cambodians equalised early in the second half after the Stags had taken a two-goal lead going into the break.
Jamil Ali fired the first shot of the game in the 5th minute after good interplay between teammates Aleksandar Duric and Imran Sahib but could only fire straight at goalkeeper York Ary before Duric saw his effort minutes later blocked by a recovering Crown defender.
Despite having the better of chances in the opening exchanges, it was the visitors who took the lead through winger Khim Borey on 14 minutes against the run of play. A free-kick on the right was whipped in by skipper Kouch Sokumpheak and Borey leapt over his markers to power home a header past a stranded Sasa Dreven.
The Stags tried to hit back immediately but Mustafic Fahrudin’s saw his free-kick on the other end sail just over the bar. Benoit Croissant’s low shot on 20 minutes was then turned around the post by Ary as Tampines poured forward in search for an equalizer.
The home side continued to carve out chances after chances and finally got the equalizer they deserved four minutes before the interval. A header by Ahmad Latiff found its way to Aleksandar Duric and the 42-year-old fired a low shot into the bottom corner, beyond the reach York Ary’s dive.
But two goals in a minute on the stroke of half-time put Tampines in the driving seat going into the break.
The first was scored by super sub Jamil Ali. Playing a quick one-two with Ahmed Fahmie, the former Singapore international went on to chip it over the advancing Ary. And just under a minute later, it was Imran Sahib’s turn as he sent his curling shot on the edge of the six yard box over the stranded Ary.
Despite trailing by two goals, the visitors showed no signs of giving up and found themselves back on level terms with two quickfire goals in the space of two minutes. Poor marking from the Tampines defence allowed Crown’s captain Kouch Sokumpheak to head home from close range on 57 minutes before the same man tapped home from three yards out after Sasa Dreven had spilled a shot.
But Aleksandar Duric regained the lead for the home side just after the 60th-minute mark and it proved to be enough to send Tampines into the next round of the Singapore Cup where they will face either Yotha FC from Laos or Albirex Niigata (S).
“We gave them easy goals to be fair,” lamented Crown’s head coach David Booth, after seeing his side concede four goals against their Singaporean counterparts.
“To come back (from two goals down) I have to give fair credit to the players,” Booth added.
“But two goals we gave them just before half-time (referring to the goals from Imran Sahib and Jamil Ali), we had the ball but we just gave it away and they scored. It took away all the good work, I’m afraid.”
Tampines head coach Steven Tan, on the other hand, felt that fatigue had a part to play in last night’s result. He said: “The players were tired. It was our third game in seven days. It’s the same players we played and concentration was not there.”
“Being a cup game, we just need the win,” added a relieved Tan after the game.
He however hoped that it was not complacency which had creeped in which allowed his opponents to find themselves back on level terms.
“Hopefully, that’s not the case. Like I said, we have to address this. But the players know, we cannot afford to allow them to come back especially with a two-goal lead.”
Tampines Rovers: Sasa Dreven (GK); Benoit Croissant, Anaz Hadee, Fahrudin Mustafic; Ismadi Mukhtar, Ahmad Latiff, Imran Sahib, Jamil Ali (Sazali Salleh 70’); Ahmed Fahmie (Ali Hudzaifi 90’), Aleksandar Duric (C), Gligor Gligorov Unused subs: Jufri Taha, Davor Piskor, Hairulnazri Hanafi, Haziq Azman, Arif Ali
Phnom Penh Crown: York Ary (GK); Chan Dara, Tieng Tiny, Sok Sovan, Pheak Rady; Ouk Sothy (Henry Asonibe 56’), Sos Suhana; Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak (C), Duncan Tarley (Sok Pheng 56’), Kingsley Njoku (Hong Pheng 77’) Unused subs: Vili Ka, Chun Sovanna, Sam Chamrouen
Yellow card(s): Anaz Hadee (Tampines Rovers); Sok Savan (Phnom Penh Crown)
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