Taking on their much-fancied rivals in a hotly-anticipated clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Tampines Rovers FC stuck to their guns and managed to grab a creditable draw against the V.League 1 champions.
Group F’s form teams
Having put 10 past Cambodia’s Nagaworld just a fortnight ago, the Tím Vàng entered this fixture as firm favourites. Having reached the final playoff round of this year’s AFC Champions League where they fell to a 4-1 defeat away at Shandong Luneng, the Vietnamese were in top form and were looking to maintain their early season prowess against Tampines. They came into tonight's fixture 2nd in their domestic league table, having notched an impressive 2-0 win away at Viettel last time out.
Tampines were in fine form themselves. Having put 5 goals past title rivals Home United at the weekend and sitting pretty on top of the Singapore Premier League, the Stags were by no means there for the taking coming into the game. With 10 goals scored in their opening 2 SPL fixtures, they were definitely capable of causing some problems for the Hanoi back four.
Tampines, to their credit, defended resolutely in the opening 45 minutes and restricted their more illustrious opponents to half chances and shots from distance, with Tampines custodian Syazwan Buhari having little of note to do in the first half.
However, two minutes after the hour mark, Hanoi were gifted the lead. Syazwan flapped haplessly at Nguyen Quang Hai’s corner, with the cross sailing straight over the Singapore international and right to the feet of Pape Omar Faye, who nonchalantly rolled the ball into an empty net. Cue wild celebrations amongst the sizeable traveling support, and it looked to be a formality from here on in.
Tampines prove their mettle
To Tampines’ credit though, they did anything but roll over. Rather than resorting to launching long balls towards their frontmen in search of a goal, a tactic frequently employed by Singapore sides in Asia in recent years, the Stags continued to knock it around nicely, probing for an opening, and they were rewarded for their patience with just 13 minutes remaining.
Following a neat passing exchange, veteran striker Khairul Amri squeezed a through ball beyond the high Hanoi backline, sending winger Jordan Webb away. The Canadian raced clear of the scrambling Hanoi defenders before coolly slotting the ball beyond the onrushing Nguyen Van Cong. The yellow half of Jalan Besar erupted, and Webb wheeled away in celebration, much to the horror of the Hanoi boss Chu Dinh Nghiem.
Tampines and Hanoi now sit top of the group on 4 points apiece, while Nagaworld sit in 3rd following their 2-1 win over Myanmar’s Yangon United. The Blue Lions sit in 4th, with tonight’s defeat to Nagaworld preceded by a 1-3 home defeat to Tampines 2 weeks ago.