A brace from Miljan Mrdakovic and a stunner from Luis Closa saw the Stags overturn an early deficit to defeat Pune FC 3-1 in their third Group E game
Tampines Rovers secured their first three points in the AFC Cup after coming back from a goal down to beat Indian side Pune FC 3-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening.
After losing their first two matches against Kitchee SC and Nay Pyi Taw FC 5-0 and 3-1 respectively, the Stags were desperate for victory.
But they had to do it the hard way after Riga Mustapha’s penalty gave the visitors the lead on 15 minutes, before Miljan Mrdakovic’s double and Luis Closa’s stunner gave the S.League champions their first three points in Group H.
It was an entertaining game with chances aplenty from both sides, with Tampines coming closest to breaking the deadlock on 11 minutes. Norihiro Kawakami’s header from Shahdan Sulaiman’s corner was cleared off the line by Gabriel Fernandes, as Pune breathed a sigh of relief..
But they took the lead four minutes later after Stags goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at was adjudged to have brought down Mirjan Pavlovic inside the penalty area. Mustapha made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, sending the custodian the wrong way.
However, it was all Tampines after that, as Shahdan almost brought the home side level a few minutes later. Aleksandar Duric crossed to the far post for Jamil Ali, who cushioned it first-time back to the midfielder, only for him to smash the ball over from six yards.
The Stags came close again midway through the first half when Jamil’s scuffed shot inside the penalty area fell to Mrdakovic, but he somehow missed the target in his second attempt from close range.
But the home side finally got a deserved equaliser seven minutes before the break, when they were awarded an indirect free-kick in the box after Pune goalkeeper Amrinder Singh picked up Anas Edathodika’s back pass. Mustafic Fahrudin smashed the set-piece into the wall but got his head to the rebound, looping it to the far post for a lurking Mrdakovic to head home powerfully.
The second half continued in similar fashion and the Stags took the lead just after the hour mark in stunning fashion, as Mrdakovic turned provider. The striker laid the ball to the path of Closa, who fired an unstoppable 25-yard curler into the top left corner.
The Stags then gave themselves breathing space when Mrdakovic scored his second of the evening seven minutes later. Jamil’s cross hit a defender and bounced straight to the unmarked Serbian in the six yard box, who swivelled and fired the ball past a hapless Singh.
Pune tried to hit back late in the game but Mustapha could only manage to lob the ball over the bar with only Hyrulnizam to beat, after Pierre Douhou flicked a pass through. Pavlovic also had his goal-bound effort on 85 minutes punched away, as the Stags comfortably saw out the game to secure a vital triumph.