MOHUN BAGAN 3
(Jeje Lalpekhlua 5, Cornell Glen 41, Katsumi Yusa 83)
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Yasir Hanapi 43)
They showed their ambition in pre-season with the signing of quality local players and a marquee foreign name.
But S.League giants Tampines Rovers kicked off their season with a 3-1 loss to Indian champions Mohun Bagan in a first-round qualifier of the Asian Champions League (ACL) in Kolkata last night.
Former Arsenal and Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant was ruled out because he was signed too late to be registered for the match and, early into pre-season, V Sundramoorthy's side struggled to make an impression, even with nine former LionsXII players, as well as ex-Singapore internationals like veterans Noh Rahman and Mustafic Fahrudin in the team.
The visitors' slow start in the cold weather cost them, with Jeje Lalpekhlua drawing first blood in the fifth minute, arriving late in the penalty box to poke home a low cross from the left.
Mohun Bagan's foreign attacking trio of Cornell Glen, Sony Nerde and Katsumi Yusa were more than a handful for Tampines' backline in the first period, with Nerde providing the assist for Glen to bundle the ball home from point- blank range in the 41st minute to make it 2-0.
The home side could have scored more if not for wayward finishing and the heroics of Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who saved a penalty from Glen in the 34th minute.
Just before half-time, Yasir Hanapi gave the Singaporeans a lifeline when the unmarked midfielder headed home off a Hafiz Abu Sujad free-kick just outside the box.
Tampines were robbed of an equaliser just after the restart, after captain Fazrul Nawaz was adjudged to be offside when he headed home from another free-kick in the 47th minute.
The Stags managed to keep the Indian side at bay for much of the second half, although Izwan had to be called into action with a point-blank save from Glen's header in the 67th minute.
Yasir had a glorious chance for an equaliser when he found himself clear in the penalty box in the 80th minute with just the goalkeeper to beat, but he sent his shot soaring over the crossbar and into the cold, foggy night.
It proved crucial, as Mohun Bagan's Japanese captain Yusa found himself unmarked and alone in the six-yard box in the 83rd minute off a corner.
The 27-year-old made no mistake to ensure a comfortable win for the hosts.
With the result, Tampines are now out of the ACL, and will play in the Asian Football Confederation Cup competition in Group E with Malaysian giants Selangor, Ceres La Salle (Philippines) and Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Ltd (Bangladesh).
TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Noh Rahman, Izzdin Shafiq (Jordan Webb, 46), Christopher van Huizen (Sufian Anuar, 72), Shahdan Sulaiman, Fazrul Nawaz, Yasir Hanapi, Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Irwan Shah, Kwon Jun (Mustafic Fahrudin, 66)
TNP Man of the Match:
This article was first published on January 28, 2016.
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