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[AFC Cup] Stags Barely Found Their Flair In The Felda Opener

Fazrul Hazli (right) scored the consolation for "The Fighters"
Barely surprised many when the first half of this AFC Cup Group G fixture between Tampines Rovers and Felda United from Malaysia ended scoreless.

But what really surprised the crowd of 1277 at the Jalan Besar Stadium was the three-minute stoppage added on by the referee, which I doubt the decision went down too well with the audience, when many were more eager to head out for a breather following an uninspiring half of football.

Ivan Dzoni (extremely right) facing pressure from Felda's defenders 
In charge of his first competitive match since his recruitment weeks ago, Juergen Raab seems to adapt a much conservative approach that departed from the usual offensive flair associated with Tampines in the past.

Whilst we aren't sure if it is because the 58-year-old former Courts Young Lions coach still in the process of assessing the strength of his new team and resulted the team in yellow consistently strolled the ball around the park, trying to find any chance to prick open the stubborn Malaysian defence.

Probably because that assessment was completed before the break, the designated hosts decided to tweak their approach with two attacks launched on the left flank right after the interval to spark some excitement to the game.

Ismadi Mukhtar being sandwiched in this attempt
However, the Jengka-based team also devised a tactic to counter the change, as explained by their coach after the match.

“First half, I think my team did a good job where I told my players to maintain our discipline in both defence and attack,” said Felda coach Mohd Nik in the post-match press conference.

“In the second half, we changed our formation to 4-4-2 in order to make it more compact in the middle to prevent Tampines from penetrate too easily, but I felt the first goal we conceded was due to the lack of concentration and fatigue." added the 62-year-old coach who only took over the reins of last season's Malaysian Super League (MSL) runners-up merely days ago.

Ridzuan Abdunloh Pula (middle) diffused a threat
Stags' new signing Son Yong Chan placed his name on the scoresheet when he was at the receive end to head home a cross from the left by another new boy Raspreet Sandhu in the 64th minute to break the deadlock.

Although it took another twenty minutes before Tampines doubled their lead through the talismanic Khairul Amri who only started the game by came in as a replacement for ex-Croatian U-17 skipper Ivan Dzoni in the 70th minute.

The decision to start the 31-year-old Lions star from the bench was because Amri had just recovered from an injury and in view of the Community Shield which is taking place this coming Sunday against reigning champions Albirex Niigata (Singapore) at Kallang, according to Tampines' assistant coach Herman Zailani in the post-match media briefing.

Son Yong Chan (7) kept close to Felda Utd's Hadin (27)
That 84th minute strike by the 113-capped marksman would have thought to seal the game on a clean sheet for the five-time S.League champions, until it was ruined by a well-taken consolation by Fazrul Hazli two minutes later to make in 2-1 at the end of the day.

Said Coach Herman of that 86th minute goal:"It was a good goal that made the game exciting towards to the end."

"It is also important for us to start the season well and this win placed us on a good position that I hope it is something we can build on it." he added.


  1. To be fair Tampines have yet to gain much match fitness as compared to Felda who had started competitive football already for the season.

  2. The No.20 was very bad. Cannot even shoot a ball as a striker. Can't even pass a ball and can't hold the ball up. Wonder if he will be another "wannabe".

  3. Tampines have a decent squad this year. Apart from Son, the rest of the foreign player still need to impress. Looking forward to the rest of the season


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