Tampines Rovers top Group D after an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Gombak United to set-up a meeting with Albirex Niigata (S) in the quarterfinal.Gombak United were forced to start the game without Iqbal Hussein and Fareez Farhan as they were suspended and injured respectively.
The visitors, Tampines Rovers, on the other hand started with a relatively strong squad but questions had to be raised about their defence, as at times they looked to be letting the opponents get past them easily.
Nine minutes in to the match, Jamil Ali allowed himself to be dispossessed by Hafiz Rahim at the far left corner but thankfully for the Stags, the ever reliable Mustafic Fahruddin was on hand to ensure that Hafiz was not able to venture further into the box.
Five minutes after, celebrations were all around for the home fans as the Bulls broke the deadlock through Julien Durand.
Hafiz Rahim played a defence splitting ball to Samuel Benjamin at the edge of the box and the 18-year old's effort on goal was not handled well by Sasa Dreven. Durand reacted the quickest to the loose ball and from a tight angle, slotted the ball home to make it 1-0 for the Bulls.
Midway through the first half, Tampines' defence was caught napping as they allowed K Vikraman to make a run into the box but his shot was well saved by Dreven in goal.
Ten minutes before the break, Dreven was once again the savior as he saved a goal-bound shot with his outstretched leg from a Durand effort.
It was a rare scene to see the Stags backpedalling for most of the half and it was only at the 40th minute that they had their first shot on target, but Jamil’s effort was brilliantly tipped over by Zaiful Nizam.
Disaster was to strike the home side three minutes after the hour mark as a miscommunication between Ismail Yunos and Zaiful presented the Stags with the equaliser.
A harmless ball was played into the box and Walid Lounis headed the ball back to his goalkeeper but unfortunately for the home side, Zaiful was off his line, and the ball trickle into an empty net.
The draw meant that the Bulls would end the group campaign as runners-up and will travel to Bedok Stadium to meet Geylang United in the quarter-finals.