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Singapore Cup

  • October 4, 2012
  • • 19:45
  • • Clementi Stadium, Singapore
  • Referee: S. Singh
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Singapore Cup semi-final preview: Tampines Rovers vs Loyola Meralco Sparks

Singapore Cup semi-final preview: Tampines Rovers vs Loyola Meralco Sparks

Zeng Liwei

The second semi-final fixture promises an intriguing affair between the growing Singapore-Philippines rivalry

The second tie of the RHB Singapore Cup semi-finals will see an intriguing affair between defending S.League champions Tampines Rovers and Filipino side Loyola Meralco Sparks.

This two-legged affair represents a chance for the Stags to regain a trophy which they last won in 2006, but more significantly, it could prove to be the turning point of their season.

Stags coach Tay Peng Kee had a relatively unperturbed start inititally after taking over from Steven Tan in the Tampines hot seat after their League Cup failure in August. However, dropping four points in his last two league matches means he is currently facing his first real test of his coaching credentials.

The Cup semi-final is a welcome distraction from his league troubles. Overcoming the invitees to enter the final could just provide the impetus to reinvogorate his Stags on their final push for the league title.

After blasting the league officials over the schedule that saw them play four matches in 12 days, his side cannot use the excuse of having insufficient rest this time round.

The majority of the squad have had eight full days of rest, bar five who were involved in the Sultan of Selangor Cup over the weekend.

"The players have recovered from the fatigue, I think they're now in good shape and condition," assessed Tay.

His side did easily brush off the challenge of Albirex Niigata over two legs in the quarter-finals to reach this stage, but it is worth noting that they struggled the last time they had to face unknown foreign opposition.

Cambodian invitee Phomh Penh Crown had them sweating all the way in their first round with only Aleksandar Duric's second-half goal separating the two sides in a seven-goal thriller, a match that Tay did not even witness.

With the growing rivalry between Singapore and Philippines, the recent 2-0 victory over the Lions in September exemplifying that, this match will be of particular interest for the Filipino expats.

Calvin Go, who was team-mates with Loyola's assistant coach Gil Talavera during their days in varsity tournaments, told Goal.com Singapore that this would be a massive match for them.

"It's very difficult to beat Tampines who have a very experienced team, but we love the challenge," he said.

"I'll love to see Loyola go all the way to the finals - that will be a first and a great achievement for us."

Channel Newsasia presenter Timothy Go also weighed in on the fixture: "I think they will make a splash in the Cup. I think our nation is on our way to football greatness in South East Asia."

Indeed, overcoming the Sparks will be no mean feat for the the Stags, considering the players they have at their disposal.

The Younghusband brothers need no introduction, with captain James providing the brains from midfield while Phil has struck up a fearsome partnership with Mark Hartmann upfront.

Phil and Mark scored an astounding 37 goals out of their 64 goals in 18 domestic league games although they finished five points behind eventual winners Global.

The 2011-12 United Football League season ended in late June, thus they will be well-rested for this tie.

"They're a pretty reasonable side with six to seven national players, especially the Younghusband brothers - they tortured Singapore in that friendly," added Tay.

With the Sparks coming with all guns blazing, Tay will certainly need to fix his leaky defence that saw his side concede four the last time.

With the prospect of an intimidating atmosphere at Jalan Besar Stadium with large contingent of Filipino fans expected to turn up on Sunday for the second leg, the 50-year-old targets a 'comfortable lead' to take into that match.

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Singapore Cup ‎(SC)‎ Oct 4, 2012 Tampines Rovers FC 2 - Loyola Meralco Sparks FC 0
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