Football: Super Stags come good

Teo Hock Seng stood at the sidelines of the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night, waiting for his players to walk off the pitch.

Wearing a broad smile on his face, the Tampines Rovers chairman had one hand in his pocket, with the other flashing the thumbs up.

He had every reason to be pleased, after his team came from a goal down to beat India's Pune FC 3-1 in Group H of the AFC Cup.

The win was a vital one, keeping the Stags in the running to qualify from the group stage.

The S.League champions bounced back after two losing their first two games of the competition and the victory was also the first recorded by a Singapore side in the tournament.

Home United are competing in Group E and have managed one draw from three games.

"I've said before that my team will get better after four or five games... and (in their seventh game of the year) they showed the fans who the real Tampines Rovers are," said Stags' coach Salim Moin.

"All the players did well, they followed instructions and kept possession confidently."

Tampines lost 5-0 to Hong Kong's Kitchee FC and 3-1 to Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw in their first two fixtures, and when they fell behind to a 16th-minute Riga Mustapha penalty last night, it appeared that their campaign was going to be over after three matches.

But the Stags rallied, turning in one of their best performances of the year with slick passing football.

They created several chances, and with the clinical Miljan Mrdakovic up front, the Stags were bound to score.

The Serb has scored five times in all competitions before last night, and he added two more against Pune.

The first was with his head in the 38th minute to draw the match level, and his second was a crisp right-footed finish after Pune failed to to clear their lines in the 69th minute.

Mrdakovic's strike came seven minutes after a thunderbolt by the impressive Luis Closa.

Tampines moved to third in the group, four points behind leaders Kitchee.

Salim believes his side will stay in contention to qualify for the knockout stages, and perhaps even blaze a trail for Singapore football.

"We have quality players and I have faith in them. I hope Tampines can be the first team to qualify for the final of the AFC Cup," said Salim.

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