|By Khalis Rifhan
Goals in each half from Aleksandar Duric and Ahmad Latiff helped Tampines Rovers to a clean 2-0 victory over the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the Singapore Cup semi-final at Clementi Stadium on Thursday.
But before the Stags can pop the champagne for a first appearance in the final since their defeat in 2010 to Thailand outfit Bangkok Glass FC, they will have to see out another 90 minutes of football in the second-leg this Sunday.
Coach Tay Peng Kee is fully aware of that, and felt that the tie could have been well out of their opponents' hands had his players been more clinical in front of goal.
“I think it is not so secure. We should have finished them off today; we had so many chances earlier!" bemoaned Tay.
“We should have converted those chances into goals.”
After seeing how Loyola gave his team several scares in the game, Tay believed that his players did enough to hold them off and remarked that Philippines football has improved over the past few years.
“Generally, I think our boys played well, and Loyola is not an easy team, despite what others may think," commented Tay.
"They are no more like those ‘midget’ Filipino [in the past]; they are a good team.
"So many of their players are so huge, and I think it is a good result but we could have done better.”
Loyola team manager Vincent Santos was not too pleased with the decision from referee Sukhbir Singh to show Kim Woo Chul a second yellow card for taking a free kick without waiting for the whistle.
“From my understanding, it looks like everyone was ready for it [the freekick], and the other team [Tampines] was not complaining about it," complained Santos.
"The referee should have whistled right away. The freekick was ordered to be retaken, but I don’t understand it [the yellow card].”
Although England-born Mark Hartmann started on the bench and was only introduced to the game midway through the second half, Santos is not ruling him out as a starter for the return tie.
“We just felt that we wanted a bit more movement today, but he came in the second half for us. So we’ll see [in the] next game," he explained.
"We may need to start Hartmann, and he is an important attacking player for us.”
Despite the loss, Santos is not throwing in the towel just yet as he believes his side is capable of working wonders on Sunday.
“Definitely there is still a chance in the tie, as there is still another 90 minutes this Sunday," he said defiantly.