Stags gallant in defeat

Despite losing their last group game on Tuesday evening and failing to register a single win in their continental campaign, Tampines Rovers put up a spirited showing but were edged 2-3 by Malaysia’s Selangor at the Jalan Besar Stadium, which resulted in the Stags exiting from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup without a single victory.

Jufri Taha was unfortunate to divert a Shukor Jusoh’s cutback into his own net giving Selangor the lead just before the half hour mark. While the tie seemed headed for a 1-0 scoreline during the break, Malaysia international Amri Yahyah made it 2-0 for the visitors with a well-worked team goal that was set up by Raimi Md Nor on the stroke of half time.

The Stags pulled a goal back five minutes into the second period after Selangor’s skipper Asraruddin Putra diverted Firdaus Kasman’s cross into his own net to reduce the deficit. They then drew level after Peter Chrappan made a mess of his clearance – again off Shaiful Esah’s cross – and Aleksandar Duric capitalized on the situation, firing home the equalizer on 59 minutes.

Selangor had the last laugh, as Amri Yahyah recorded his second goal of the evening, in what could be one of the contenders for the goal of the tournament. Receiving a cross by Mahali Jasuli from the right off a deflection from Fahrudin Mustafic, Amri controlled the ball brilliantly before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Sasa Dreven from a tight angle.

It was the hosts that kicked off the game brightly, with Selangor seemingly contented to sit back and soak up the pressure. 10 minutes into the game, Ahmed Fahmie picked out Jamil Ali unmarked about 12 yards away from goal but the Stags forward sliced his shot, sending it over the cross bar.

Shaiful Esah was next in action when he sent a freekick just over the Selangor goal on 21 minutes as the Stags kept pressing for the all important opening goal.

Jamil almost sent the Stags into the lead when his misplaced attempt brought out an acrobatic save from Sharbinee Allawee. He was very lively throughout the opening period and he next set up Sead Hadzibulic who fired straight at the Selangor custodian from about eight yards out.

When you don’t take your chances, you will be punished. That was exactly what happened to the current S.League leaders as Shukor Jusoh’s cutback from the left was diverted into his own net by Jufri, allowing the visitors to draw first blood.

Jamil was then presented with an excellent opportunity to draw the Stags level. Receiving the ball from a deft flick by Hadzibulic, Jamil raced clear with only Sharbinee to beat but his cheeky lob over Sharbinee came back off the cross bar just seconds after Selangor had gotten their opening goal.

It was double blow for Tampines as Amri Yahyah struck on the stroke of half time. Michal Kubala found Raimi in the box with an excellent defense splitting pass before the latter squaring it for Amri to tap home from close range, doubling Selangor’s lead.

Tampines were crushed at this stage, and the team needed a response to this two-goal deficit.

The Stags showed character even when they were two goals down, and five minutes within the restart, they reduced the deficit. Firdaus Kasman’s cross from the left was diverted into his own goal in a communication mix-up with his custodian, and the Stags were back in the game.

Tampines kept pushing upfront and created plenty of openings in the next few minutes with Ahmed Fahmie, who was presented a rare start, coming close. His effort from inside the box was palmed away to safety by Sharbinee.

They were finally rewarded when Peter Chrappan made a mess of his clearance off Shaiful’s cross, to present Duric with a simple chance of stroking the loose ball into the net, leveling the score for the hosts a minute before the hour mark.

A minute later, Jamil’s fine run down the right saw him deliver a good centre for Duric, but Duric, under the pressure of Asraruddin headed the cross over the bar from four yards out.

The Stags had nothing to lose and pushed bodies up front in search of a winner. That resulted in holes at the back, and Selangor struck their third of the night through Amri Yahyah.

Mahali Jasuli’s cross from the right was deflected to the far post by Fahrudin, and Amri, who was lurking behind the Singapore international controlled the loose ball to perfection, before firing an unstoppable shot past Sasa Dreven from a tight angle to hand Selangor all three points needed for qualification into the next round after Saigon Xuan Thanh had lost earlier to East Bengal in India.

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