|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Khalis Rifhan
Vietnamese outfit Sai Gon Xuan Thanh defied all odds to clinch a 3-2 victory over S.League champions Tampines Rovers in the AFC Cup on Wednesday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, as the Stags got off to a losing start.
Christian Nsi Amougou scored a goal in each half while substitute Pham Thua Chi got the all-important winner in the second half as the visitors stunned the home side.
Despite Khairul Amri and former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric scoring late on, there was to be no late equaliser as the Stags fell to an opening defeat.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Sai Gon Xuan Thanh coach Lu Dinh Tuan, who is also the club’s new Technical Director, was delighted with his team's performance and claimed that it was a much-needed win after their Vietnam Super Cup loss amidst allegations of match-fixing.
“I am very proud of the two foreigners, especially Nsi Amougou, as he helped us to win tonight," he said.
“This game is important as it motivated us a lot after the loss in [the Vietnamese] Super Cup. We can't imagine we can [could] win this game but when the players played to our instructions, we were not so surprised with the win.”
Despite being on the losing end, Stags coach Nenad Bacina refused to pin the blame on his players and instead claimed full responsibility for the defeat.
“Congratulations to the winning team [because] they deserved to win," he admitted.
"They played [on the] counter and managed to win. The first goal was sloppy by us and we tried to catch up but could not get the rhythm. But in the end I have to be pleased as they [the players] managed to come back and score two goals.
“I have to take full responsibility for this result as I am the one making final decision for tactics. We will come back stronger from this defeat.”
Bacina did however acknowledge his team's poor defending, and said that the outcome might have been different had his players been more clinical in front of goal.
“We put ourselves under pressure in this match," he explained.
"Unfortunately we created three or four good opportunities, but did not convert them. If we had scored, it would have been a different game.”
While Sai Gon only played with two foreign players for this match, Dinh Tuan revealed that his team might field another foreign player for their next match against Indian side East Bengal.
“We have a foreign player and Nguyen Rogerio [who were not involved so] we will be confident if they are ready for the next game," he said.
"But Ameka will play the next game and if Rogerio is ok, he will play too. Suleiman will play in V-League only, while Ameka will play in AFC Cup.”
Tampines Rovers will next travel to Shah Alam to face Selangor FA on March 13 while Sai Gon will play host to East Bengal on the same day.