Tampines Rovers 3-1 Pune FC: Red Lizards handed first AFC Cup defeat

The Stags came back strongly from a one goal deficit as they took home all three points from the fixture...
Singapore's Tampines Rovers put in a commendable display to notch up their first win in the AFC Cup this year, as they defeated Pune FC 3-1 in a Group H encounter of the AFC Cup played in the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Mustapha Riga (15') scored the first goal of the match for Pune, but Miljan Mrdakovic (37') restored parity in the game before the half-time whistle. The home side added two more goals to their account after the break as Luis Closa (62') and Mrdakovic (69') took advantage of Pune's defensive lapses.

Pune FC coach Mike Snoei in the lineup from the side that drew with Kitchee last week. Anthony D’Souza, Gurjinder Kumar, Mumtaz Akhtar, and Mirjan Pavlovic were brought in with Srikanth Ramu, Arata Izumi, Dhanpal Ganesh and Fanai Lalrempuia making way for them.

The home side created the first clear-cut opportunity of the game in the 10th minute, when Kawakami's header had almost earned his side the elusive first goal, but Gabriel Fernandes showed good reflex to clear it off the line.

The game was only 15 minutes old, when Mustapha Riga converted a penalty-kick to break the deadlock. After some initial fumbling, Hyrulnizam, the Tampines custodian had his arms around Pavlovic in the box and brought the striker down in the process. The referee awarded Pune a spot-kick and Riga did no mistake as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and calmly put the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.

The hosts responded in a couple of minutes, but for a horrible miss by Shahdan. Duric crossed to the far post for Jamil, who cushioned it first-time back to the midfielder. The set-up was perfect but Shahdan smashed the ball over from just six yards out.

Only a few minutes later, Mrdakovic wasted another easy chance after Shaiful's cross to the far post was tapped back to Jamil by Duric. The shot was scuffed and fell to Mrdakovic in the six yard box. His initial attempt was blocked but Amrinder Singh couldn't gather it. The Serb pounced again but somehow shot wide from three yards out.

After conceding the early goal, Tampines came back well into the game and their 3-5-2 formation ensured that the away side were getting outnumbered in the middle of the park.

Pune got a chance in the 35th minute, when Gabriel Fernandes raced down the right and put in an inviting cross that Pavlovic narrowly failed to get on the end of.

However, the Stags leveled the game a couple of minutes later after Amrinder conceded a silly free-kick in the box by gathering a back-pass. Mustafic smashed the free-kick into the wall but got his head to the rebound, heading it towards the far post where a lurking Mrdakovic powered the ball into the back from close range.

After a scrappy start in the second half, the home side added another goal to their account just after the hour mark, courtesy a long ranger from Paraguayan Luis Closa. A sweeping move saw Shaiful find Shahdan 25 yards out, who picked out Mrdakovic on the edge of the box. The Serbian laid it off to Closa, who fired a stunning effort into the top left corner to earn the lead for his side.

The Singapore side doubled their advantage only seven minutes later, when Jamil Ali's cross was shoddily cleared by Srikanth Ramu and the ball bounced straight to an unmarked Mrdakovic in the six yard box. The Serbian turned and fired the ball past a hapless Amrinder to complete his brace.

Pune FC got two chances in consecutive minutes. First, Pavlovic was clear on the left edge of the box and unleashed a fierce attempt, but Shariff came in the way and blocked it from going in. In the next minute, Douhou Pierre flicked a brilliant ball into the six-yard area for Mustapha, but the ex-Levante striker sent the ball into orbit with only the goalkeeper to beat.

The last chance of the clash also came in the way of the Red Lizards in the 85th minute, when Pavlovic twisted and turned in the box after Kawakami had given the ball away. He took a good shot but Hyrulnizam punched the effort before clutching on to the loose ball.

With this defeat, Pune FC (2 points) are now at the bottom of the group H with Kitchee SC (7 points), Nay Pyi Taw FC (4 points) and Tampines Rovers (3 points) being ahead of them.

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