In the second fixture of the 2012 RHB Singapore Cup, reigning S.League champions Tampines Rovers edged out a plucky Phnom Penh Crown thanks to a brace by captain Aleksander Duric
Tampines dominated proceedings from the get-go and nearly opened the scoring six minutes in. Midfielder Imran Sahib’s quick feet saw him tee up Jamil Ali just outside the box, but the Cambodian keeper comfortably saved Jamil’s shot.
The Stags once again threatened five minutes later when forward Ahmed Fahmie played a beautifully flighted through ball to his captain Aleksandar Duric, but the chance was wasted as the nippy Cambodian defence quickly cleared the ball off Duric’s feet before he could take a shot.
Tampines was then stunned as Phnom Penh Crown’s first attack of the match resulted in the opening goal on 15 minutes, giving them a surprise lead.
A freekick whipped in from the left flank by captain Kouch Sokumpheak found Khim Borey, whose header gave the unfancied Cambodians the one goal advanatge.
That seemed to wake the Stags up as they started to string their passes better to find the equalising goal, instead of resorting to merely playing high balls to target-man Duric.
Tampines finally broke down the resolute Cambodian backline with three minutes to go to half-time as Duric led by example and coolly slotted home the equalizer, thanks to an assisted header from Ahmad Latiff.
The goal inspired the Stags as they went into overdrive in the remaining minutes of the half, scoring two goals in quick succession thanks to Jamil Ali and Imran Sahib, ensuring they went into the dressing room with a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Tampines then picked up where they left off in the second=half and dominated the game but Phnom Penh Crown managed to peg back, making the game an entertaining 3-3 just under the hour mark, thanks to a quick-fire double from their playmaker and captain Kouch Sokumpheak.
Sokumpheak first made it 3-2 after a free-kick found him unmarked in the penalty box and he stroked the ball home. He then scored his second in two minutes, as he ghosted past the Tampines defence to head the ball into the back of the net, after Sasa Dreven failed to punch the ball out cleanly to safety.
However Duric soon restored the lead for his team on 64 minutes, firing past the hapless Cambodian goalkeeper to make it 4-3 to Tampines, ensuring a nervy end to the game.
Tampines then tried to seal the game by looking for their fifth goal, and Gligorov almost ensured victory for the Stags in the last few minutes with a rasping curling shot from outside the penalty box, which skimmed the top of the crossbar. The Stags held on to their slender lead and progressed into the next round of the Singapore Cup, awaiting the winners of the Albirex Niigata-Yotha FC match on May 26.