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The Selangor FA coach does not feel that his side are ready for this AFC Cup campaign while Tampines Rovers boss Nenad Bacina believes that more should be invested in the S.League

By Eddie Ridzwan

Tampines Rovers faltered against the Red Giants of Selangor FA 3-2 after mustering a two goal comeback in the second half on Tuesday evening. Amri Yahya played a key role as his brace, which included a superb match-winning strike, gave the Malaysian side a lead that they clung on to at the end.

The tight victory, coupled with Sai Gon Xuan Thanh's 4-1 loss to East Bengal in the other Group H match, meant that the Malaysian side squeezed past the Vietnamese into second place and the next round of the AFC Cup on goal difference.

Selangor coach Irfan Bakti felt rather fortunate with the win, admitting that his side might not be prepared for the following tests of the AFC Cup.

“We were perhaps lucky today," he remarked. "They [Tampines Rovers] may have taken the game lightly, knowing that qualification to the next round was beyond their reach.

“I’ve told my players before, 2-0 is not a big scoreline because the opposition can come back anytime. So, after Amri Yahya scored the third goal, we parked our bus, putting into practice what we learnt from LionsXII on Saturday.

“It is an achievement for us to qualify for the next stage of the AFC Cup competition but I have to admit that we were not ready and whatever the outcome was this year, it was to be lessons for the future."

Irfan also believes that there is not much difference between the standards of the S.League and the Malaysian Super League.

“I wouldn’t say that there is much difference between the S-League and the M-League," he claimed.

"Yes, this year no Singaporean teams advanced but look at the English Premier League! They have no representatives in the latter rounds, but they are still a big league!"

Tampines coach Nenad Bacina did not seem to be disappointed by his team’s performance despite the loss.

“First of all, I have to congratulate Selangor and [wish them the] best of luck for the next stage," he graciously said.

“It was a very good game, both sides put in very good performances. My players put in a lot of effort, skill and football knowledge but somehow it did not work out for us.

“It is a pity as I know that my boys were very serious about the match, despite qualification being out of our reach. The first half was ours, we controlled and created [chances] but we conceded two.

"In football, the better team does not necessarily win or score, which provides an entertainment factor in this sport."

Bacina also gave his few cents' worth about matching up with the improving leagues in Asia, as his side ended the campaign without a single victory.

“I think as a league -not just Tampines - we need to invest and improve more," he asserted.

"From our opponents, East Bengal and Sai Gon, we can see that their league has improved greatly. This is due to the investment pumped into their league. Football is all about investment and I believe we should follow that way as it is the best way to improve."

Amidst the defeat and unsuccessful campaign, Bacina also reserved special mention for the Tampines faithful.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone out there who has followed our AFC Cup campaign this year, especially to Arief [Arep] and his friend who followed us to Vietnam," he said with a smile.