|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Teng Kiat
Tampines Rovers’ AFC Cup ambitions took a big blow on Wednesday evening as they succumbed 4-2 in a goal-fest to East Bengal, leaving them with only one point from three games.
Both teams had their fair share of chances but it was the visiting Indian side that took three points home from the Group E tie thanks to a superb display from striker Chindi Edeh, who scored once and had two assists.
The home side started quicker off the blocks, as Shahdan Sulaiman took a flick-on from Imran Sahib and dragged a low shot wide after just four minutes.
The visitors deployed a rather attacking 4-3-1-2 formation, although it was Tampines who dominated possession early on with a 4-4-2 that shifted into a 4-2-4 when on the offensive, pinning East Bengal back in their own half.
Striker Khairul Amri got the slightest of touches to a deep freekick from Shaiful Esah in the 11th minute, but the ball cannoned off goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal, who looked like he didn’t know much about it.
Amri then saw a close-range shot well blocked after Sead Hadzibulic had nutmegged a defender down the left before squaring the ball to him.
The Stags were made to rue not taking those opportunities as East Bengal took the lead in the 19th minute after Anaz Hadee scored an own goal when Sanju Pradhan’s shot deflected in off the defender.
Midfielder Mehtab Hossain nearly added a spectacular second two minutes later, with Sasa Dreven forced to tip a dipping 25-yard effort over the bar.
Tampines rallied as Amri volleyed Imran’s cross over the far post, but they got the equalizer near the half-hour mark. Afforded space outside the box, playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman floated a perfect ball in for Hadzibulic to head past a rooted Abhijit.
The goalkeeper then had to be alert to push away Shaiful’s curling freekick on the stroke of half-time, as both teams went into the break level after an even first half.
Amri went close to giving his side the lead five minutes into the second half, slamming an effort past the near post after making space for himself inside the box.
Moments later at the other end, Shaiful made a terrific block after Edeh easily skipped past Dreven and was left with an open goal.
The spectators were then treated to three goals in as many minutes as Edeh cut the ball back from the right for Andrew Barisic to slam home in the 62nd, with the Tampines defence asleep. The Nigerian made it 3-1 with a tap-in from Penn Orji’s low cross to round off a flowing move, before Amri then smashed the ball past Abhijit at the near post after controlling a knockdown from Hadzibulic.
The Red and Gold made sure of the victory three minutes from time when Dreven erred in coming out to claim Edeh’s right-wing cross, allowing Barisic to steal in ahead of him and chest the ball into an empty net.