Tampines scrape past Selangor 1-0 to make AFC Cup Round of 16
Tampines Rovers defeated Selangor 1-0 at the Singapore Sports Hub on Tuesday night to give the S.League a first representative in the knockout stages of the AFC Cup since 2012.
Yasir Hanapi scored a beauty just after the half-hour mark, and the hosts went on to collect a second successive 1-0 victory against a below-par Selangor.
There was plenty of tension at kick-off among the 11,875 fans who flocked to the arena. Ceres La Salle of the Philippines had already booked a berth in the last 16, meaning that either Selangor or Tampines were heading for elimination.
The Malaysian visitors needed just a draw while the Rovers needed nothing less than victory.
Tampines asked the questions in the early exchanges with the first attempt on goal coming on 12 minutes when Jermaine Pennant swung a cross into the area from the right, only for Billy Mehmet to send a header that narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Selangor started to come into the game with a succession of set pieces that put some pressure on the home defence.
When the deadlock was broken by Tampines after 31 minutes, it was done so in style. Pennant found Mehmet at the edge of the area and the Irishman laid the ball back for Yasir just outside the area. From the right, the midfielder curled a delightful left-footed shot that flew over Azhan Khalid and into the far corner.
The visitors' best moment of the first half came in added time. Mauro Olivi fired a centrally-located free kick low into the bottom corner but Izwan Mahbud got down well to push the ball away to safety.
Just after the hour, Tampines almost doubled their advantage. Selangor were looking for a foul on Olivi but the ball fell to Hafiz Sujad on the left corner of the area. The midfielder let fly with a rocket that cannoned off the Selangor post.
Selangor had been second best for most of the match but knew that one goal would suffice. Unfortunately for fans of the Red Giants, the Malaysia Super League team struggled to create clear chances with Olivi, Patrick Wleh and Andik having half-chances at best.
There was a ray of hope for Selangor with five minutes remaining as Mehmet was shown a second yellow card for no apparent reason by the referee who had made a number of strange calls throughout the game.
If the decision is upheld, Mehmet will miss the next match but for Tampines fans, at least there will be a next match.
For Selangor and Zainal Abidin, they will now need to shift their focus back to Malaysia Super League duties once they make the long track back across the Causeway.