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Tampines fall at first hurdle in AFC Champions League qualifying

Home side Bali United proved too hot to handle as an under-strength Tampines Rovers fell to a 3-1 away defeat in their AFC Champions League (ACL) preliminary round one qualifier on Tuesday night. 

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Missing the key trio of Ryutaro Megumi, Jordan Webb and Yasir Hanapi - the former two due to injuries and Yasir due to registration issues, the Stags struggled to get going and could have gone behind less than a minute in but Tampines goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari was alert to push Stefano Lilipaly’s fierce volley over for a corner.

Despite playing on a waterlogged pitch at Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium, Bali remained largely on top in the opening exchanges as they created chance after chance before belatedly taking the lead in the 17th minute.

Taking advantage of a loose ball outside the penalty area, Fadhil unleashed a powerful first-time shot which gave Syazwan no chance

Taking advantage of a loose ball outside the penalty area, Fadhil unleashed a powerful first-time shot which gave Syazwan no chance as it sailed into the top corner.

It nearly became 2-0 three minutes later but Nick van Der Velden saw his effort come off the upright, before Indonesian international Irfan Bachdim had his strike ruled out for offside moments later.   

But, the visitors were then nearly handed the equaliser on 38 minutes following an error from Demerson Costa but youngster Zulfadhmi Suzliman contrived to fire straight at Wawan Hendrawan.

Tampines would however pull level three minutes before the break when Shannon rose highest to head home Irwan Shah’s left-wing cross past Wawan.

Widodo Putro’s men would come close to restoring their one-goal advantage right after the restart but Afiq Yunos came to the rescue of Tampines with a goalline clearance after Syazwan had spilled Ilija Spasojevic’s low shot.

There was no denying Spasojevic just after the hour mark however, as he held off Afiq to fire over a hapless Syazwan from a tight angle to put the hosts in front again.

Yet, Tampines refused to throw in the towel.

Tampines have been drawn in Group H alongside Indonesian side Persija Jakarta, Vietnam’s Song Lam Nghe An and possibly Johor Darul Ta’zim

Veteran defender Daniel Bennett had his half-volley parried by Wawan at his near post before the Bali goalkeeper clawed Fazrul Nawaz’s downward header away to safety.  

Those misses would return to haunt Jurgen Raab’s side as substitute Hanis Saghara Putra made sure of the victory for Bali deep into stoppage time with a low drive from the edge of the box.  

Bali will now jet off to Thailand to face Thai league 1 side Chiangrai United on January 23 in the next round of the ACL qualifiers while Tampines will play in the second-tier AFC Cup. The Singapore side have been drawn in Group H alongside another Indonesian side Persija Jakarta, Vietnam’s Song Lam Nghe An and possibly Johor Darul Ta’zim, should the Malaysian side fail at the first hurdle in ACL qualification.

Photo: Bali United