The S.League champions suffered yet another thrashing at the hands of the newly-crowned Hong Kong champions, but need only one point from their last Group H game to progress
Having lost 5-0 at home in their Group H opener in late February, there was to be no revenge for the S.League champions in their return clash against the newly crowned Hong Kong champions.
The Stags were served a lethal dose of Spanish delight as Juan Belencoso struck a hat-trick and compatriot Jorge Tarres grabbed the remaining goal to leave the visitors reeling, although third-placed Nay Pyi Taw FC's 3-3 draw with Pune FC means the Singapore side are still in pole position to progress with one game left.
Kitchee controlled possession from the start and Tarres saw a header hit the post on eight minutes, before having a strike ruled out for offside four minutes later. Belencoso also saw a goal chalked off for offside on 17 minutes, but the striker was not to be denied.
After Aleksandar Duric had shot wide on two occasions, Belencoso made Tampines pay on 35 minutes by blasting home a rebound after Hyrulnizam Juma'at had parried a shot from Tarres.
It was all Kitchee after that, although they had to wait until just after the hour mark to extend the lead as Belencoso converted Cheung Kin Fung's cross.
Tarres had another strike ruled out for offside before finally getting on the scoresheet, firing home after being set up by Belencoso on 82 minutes. The latter completed his hat-trick late on by lifting Huang Yang's through ball over the goalkeeper to send his team through as group winners.
The home side also saw a fourth goal ruled out by the linesman's flag and coach Alex Chu Chi Kwong was adamant his team still has room to improve.
"The final score was 4-0, but it should have been the half-time score," he told AFC.comafter the game. "The team wasted a lot of chances. It took them time to get used to the slippery ground, and they were rushing on the attack.
“The team has improved a lot, in finishing, pressing and defensive positioning. But in future we need to improve our composure in counterattacks – and vice versa, in transitioning from attack to defence, to guard against opposition counters.”
Opposite number Salim Moin acknowledged his team was outplayed but is confident they can still advance in second place, with them needing only one point against Nay Pyi Taw in their final game at home.
"Kitchee kept possession well and their movement and use of space was excellent,” he stated. "Their players were very hard to mark.
“I hope we can get points with the help of home advantage in our final game. I still have confidence that my team can progress to the next round.”