Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tampines edges Loyola in S'pore Cup 1st Leg

c/o Brosi Gonzales

Current S-League leaders Tampines Rovers secured a 2-0 victory over the United Football League's Loyola Meralco Sparks in the semifinals of the RHB Singapore Cup on Thursday night at Clementi Stadium.

Before the match, Loyola's head coach Kim Chul Su had expressed that the matchup would be a good measure to see where Philippine club football is as of the moment, with the 2011 UFL Cup runner-up going up against a team that has won the competition thrice. The team is also the only guest team still in the running for the competition, something LMS FC President Randy Roxas stated, expressing their wish to move further in the competiton and make the finals in their first try. According to Phil Younghusband, preparations for this semifinal went well and the confidence from the preseason performances would bode well for the team here as well as in the United Football League. Said confidence, according to Chad Gould, would translate to a 110% performance in the pitch.

Goals from the ageless Aleksandar Duric in the first half and Ahmad Latiff Bin Khamarudin in the second half proved to be enough for the Rovers against the Sparks, who are playing their first competitive match of the season with the roster of players for the upcoming UFL Cup. Duric's chip in the 28th minute over keeper Ref Cuaresma put the home side up 1-0. Ref would later on acknowledge the error as he had been off the line when Duric attempted the chip. 

Latiff had been dominating in midfield with his forays and passes to Duric and Saed Hadzibulic, but in the 50th minute, Imran Sahib fed Latiff the ball, which the midfielder then fired towards the goal to double the advantage.

The Sparks were able to secure a goal in the 73rd minute when a Kim Woo Chul free kick made its way to a Chad Gould header into the net, but referee Sukhbir Singh disallowed it, as he deemed that Kim kicked the ball before it was ready to do so. Singh then issued a yellow card to Kim, which turned out to be his second of the match, and thus the center back was banished from the game and suspended for the return leg on Sunday night. Coach Vince Santos deemed it as a poor call, as according to him, "everyone was lined up for the shot and everyone seemed to be waiting for it. And the referee only blew his whistle after the goal. If it was a violation then he should have blown it before or during the shot."

Tampines could have had a third goal with Hadzibulic's header, but Ref saved it then defender Jang Jo Won cleared it away.

Afterwards, Anto Gonzales and Ref remarked on the game plan being geared too much on Duric, while not focusing on the wingers who fed him chances. However, the team is not discouraged with the defeat, and as Chad said, "It is something [that] we can build on." Ref also added that the team will make the adjustments from their mistakes in the first leg, while Phil noted the importance of an early goal in gauging their chances in the second game.

The 2nd leg of the RHB Singapore Cup semi final is scheduled on Sunday night at Jalan Besar Stadium, with kickoff pegged at 7:45 pm. The winner will face the winner of SAFFC against Gombak United, with the Armed Forces leading 1-0 and their 2nd leg to take place Saturday night at Jurong West Stadium.

*Thanks to Rick Olivares of Bleachersbrew for the information in crafting this report.

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