Tampines Rovers vs Selangor FA: Can the Stags make the AFC Cup’s next round?

AFC Cup | National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub | Tues 10 May | 7.00pm 

Billed as

A spot in the second round, and a little Causeway bragging rights, on the line.

The lowdown

TAMPINES ROVERS FORM

Hougang United 1-1 Tampines (S.League)

Tampines 4-2 Warriors FC (S.League)

Sheikh Jamal DC 3-2 Tampines (AFC Cup)

Geylang International 0-1 Tampines (S.League)

Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Tampines (S.League)

SELANGOR FA FORM

Selangor 2-1 T-Team (MSL)

Selangor 0-0 Ceres La Salle (AFC Cup)

PDRM FA 0-0 Selangor (MSL)

Selangor 1-0 Penang FA (MSL)

Selangor 2-1 Sheikh Jamal DC (AFC Cup)

Three years of hurt may well be extended to four if Tampines Rovers do not turn up on Tuesday night.

The last time a Singaporean club made it to the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup knockout stage was Home United in 2012, where they were walloped 3-0 by Syria’s Al-Shorta in the last 16.

Since then, no club has managed to progress past the group stages.

Tampines were involved in 2013 and 2014 under Nenad Bacina and Salim Moin respectively, but both coaches failed to steer them into the second round and soon bit the dust.

Warriors FC and Balestier Khalsa then tried their luck in 2015 but to no avail.

It looked like the unwanted streak was sure to end when the Stags started off this year’s campaign with two wins out of two to top Group E, but it all changed when they conceded a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Philippines’ Ceres-La Salle.

Consecutive away defeats followed – a 2-1 loss to Ceres and a 3-2 upset by Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club (DC) – leaving V Sundramoorthy’s side on the verge of yet another failed continental campaign.

The equation is simple – win this final game and they will be in the last 16, while anything less than that will have them eliminated from the competition.

Should they qualify, the Stags will be rewarded with US$15,000 (S$20,400) prize money by the AFC. That will be a good injection for the club, given all the supposed cash-flow issues they are currently facing.

Pennant, in AFC Cup action earlier this season, could be back in the starting line-up

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

Selangor 0-1 Tampines (AFC Cup, Mar ‘16)

Tampines 2-3 Selangor (AFC Cup, Apr '13)

Selangor 3-3 Tampines (AFC Cup, Mar '13)

Tampines 3-2 Selangor (AFC Cup, May ’06)

Selangor 1-0 Tampines (AFC Cup, Mar '06)

Club chairman Krishna Ramachandra has been pulling out all the stops to ensure they see it through – securing the massive 55,000-seat National Stadium, making the Stags the first S.League side to play there since it reopened in 2014, as well as trying to garner support from the local football fraternity to ensure a healthy attendance.

It will not be a straightforward task though, as they will be taking on Malaysian powerhouse Selangor. The Red Giants have plenty of quality in their ranks, from talented playmaker Nazmi Faiz to flying Indonesian winger Andik Vermansyah and the electric R Gopinathan.

Zainal Abidin Hassan’s side is unbeaten in its last five matches in all official competitions, along with a 4-3 defeat on penalties after a 1-1 draw against a Singapore Selection side in the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup over the weekend.

With eight points from five matches compared to Tampines’ seven, the reigning Malaysia Cup champions simply need a draw to progress into the last 16 at the Stags’ expense.

So there is little need to emphasise the magnitude of this game.

Wleh celebrates scoring against Liverpool FC

Team News

Tampines have no suspension issues, while winger Jordan Webb remains doubtful after missing the last two matches through injury.

Star man Jermaine Pennant is set to return to the starting 11 after coming off the bench against Warriors FC and Hougang United.

As for Selangor, key midfielders Hafiz Kamal and Saiful Ridzuwan Selamat are suspended – so expect hard man Veenod Subramaniam to pair up with Nazmi in the middle of the park.

Key Battle: Izwan Mahbud vs Patrick “Ronaldinho” Wleh

There is little doubt who is Selangor’s dangerman. With 11 goals and five assists in all competitions so far, Wleh is the obvious threat Tampines will have to contain.

The 24-year-old Liberian forward, on loan from Selangor PKNS, will be hoping to live up to his reputation of being a big-game player, having scored for a Malaysia XI in a 1-1 friendly draw against mighty Liverpool last July.

So it will be down to Tampines’ No.1 Izwan to repeat past heroics to stop Wleh’s goal quest.

The 25-year-old Izwan – well known for his stoic performance in Singapore’s 0-0 draw against Japan last year - is currently going through a mixed 2016 since joining from the LionsXII and has been left frustrated with his defenders in recent matches.

Sundram needs to orchestrate a win to reach the next round

The Coaches

Two men, who were renowned players in their heydays, are having it tough in their respective coaching hot seats. Singapore legend V Sundramoorthy has assembled a star-studded squad at Tampines, but it has yet to produce convincing performances on a consistent basis so far.

With a number of off-field issues surrounding the team, the 50-year-old’s hands are also tied in terms of player movement in the upcoming transfer window. Meanwhile Malaysian great Zainal Abidin Hassan has been facing the heat since joining Selangor at the end of last season.

Expectations are high at the most successful club side in the history of Malaysian football and the 54-year-old’s position at the club was under threat earlier in the season, although the situation appears to have stabilised for now.

Facts and Figures

  • Honours are even in terms of past meetings, with each side winning twice each, while the only other encounter ended in a draw.
  • The last time these sides met, in an AFC Cup match in March, Tampines won 1-0 at Selayang due to Fazrul Nawaz’s first-half goal.
  • Selangor have yet to lose an away game in the AFC Cup this season – holding Ceres to a 2-2 draw and beating Sheikh Jamal DC 4-3.
  • Tampines have only failed to score once in 16 matches in all competitions this season.
  • While Wleh is Selangor’s overall top scorer this season, Mauro Olivi has outscored him in the AFC Cup, the Argentine with three strikes to Wleh’s two.

FourFourTwo prediction

It’s a really tough one to call and may prove a hurdle too far for Tampines. We’re predicting a 1-1 draw, with Selangor grabbing an all-important equaliser.