I’m just desperate to play – Pennant raring to make AFC Cup impact

Jermaine Pennant will be looking to put his frustrations behind him when Tampines Rovers take on Bangladeshi champions Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in their AFC Cup opener on Tuesday.

It has not been the most auspicious of starts for S.League title favourites Tampines Rovers in their first two matches of the new season.

The league heavyweights had two men sent off in their season opener against arch-rivals Geylang International and required a late equaliser to save their blushes.

Against Warriors FC last Friday, the match was only played for around 12 minutes before being called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

The stage was set for Pennant to set the S.League alight in his first competitive start for Tampines, but it was not to be for the former Arsenal and Liverpool player as he lamented a "strange" start to his Stags career.

READ ALSO: Pennant's parade rained off after 12 minutes

“First we got two cards against Geylang, then this game gets called off after just 10 minutes,” said the 33-year-old. “I just wonder how much more drama will happen on Tuesday?”

“Things are not going our way now and I’m obviously a bit frustrated, but we will go again.”

Pennant, who missed the AFC Champions League qualifying defeat to India’s Mohun Bagan after failing to be registered in time, is looking forward to make up for lost time in his AFC Cup bow against Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club at Jalan Besar Stadium.

“Be it the league or cup, I’m just desperate to play now so it’ll be nice if I get to play the full 90 minutes,” the former England youth midfielder added.

“The morale is still high amongst the team; I’m sure our local players are used to games being called off due to weather conditions, so we’ll be up for it on Tuesday. Hopefully the weather holds up this time round.”

While disappointed that his side lost out on the chance to gain a first win of the season, Stags coach V Sundramoorthy has quickly shifted his focus to the AFC Cup and Sheikh Jamal.

“It’s unfortunate that we could not finish the game against Warriors,” the trainer said. “But that said, such things (postponed games) happen in every part of the world and we cannot prevent them from happening.

“Now we have to re-adjust the team line-up a little and see what we can do. The focus now definitely is the AFC Cup.”

Having lost several key players and also changing their coach in the off-season, Sheikh Jamal are not in the best of conditions heading into the Group F clash.

A win for Tampines will put them on the right track in their bid for continental glory. Only the top two sides from the group – the other two clubs being Malaysia Cup winners Selangor FA and Filipino champions Ceres la Salle – will qualify for the last 16.

Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim are the defending champions, having stunned Tajikistani side FC Istikol in last season’s final.

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo