Tampines Rovers into AFC Cup after losing ACL playoff vs. Bali United
Tampines Rovers suffered heartbreak once again in the AFC Champions League (ACL) preliminary round as they slipped to a 3-1 defeat away to Indonesia's Bali United on Tuesday night.
Fadil Sausu's spectacular opener gave the hosts the lead, but Shannon Stephen levelled the score for the Stags against the run of play late in the first half.
However, Bali won with second-half goals from Ilija Spasojevic and substitute Hanis Saghara Putra, as Tampines suffered their fourth defeat at this stage of the competition.
A waterlogged pitch delayed the kick off by an hour, but Bali wasted little time in settling and almost scored after just 15 seconds.
Stefano Lilipaly's 25-yard volley looked like it was dipping in, but Tampines goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari did well to tip the effort over.
Widodo Putro's men then thought they have grabbed the first goal moments later. Spasojevic's header looked to have crossed the line before Irwan Shah hacked clear, but the referee turned down Bali's appeals.
Syazwan was kept busy on his ACL debut, having to tip wide another Lilipaly shot and smother Ricky Fajrin's 25-yard piledriver, all in the first 12 minutes.
However, there was little the 25-year-old could do to stop the opening goal five minutes later.
Spasojevic worked some space on the edge of the box, allowing Fadli to whip home a superb first-time left-footed strike that arrowed into the top right corner.
Bali failed to grab more goals in the first half, with Nick van der Velden and Spasojevic both seeing their efforts denied by the woodwork.
Irfan Bachdim also saw his effort denied by the assistant referee's offside flag as Tampines lived on the edge.
The Stags, who had to play without the trio of Jordan Webb, Ryutaro Megumi and Yasir Hanapi, gradually gained a foothold late in the first half and gave Bali a warning on 38 minutes.
Zulfadhmi Suzliman was sent through on goal by a stray back pass from Bali defender Demerson, but the young attacker saw his shot blocked by opposing keeper Wawan Hendrawan.
Jugen Raab's side would grab a shock equaliser four minutes later, with right wing-back Shannon outjumping Hendrawan to head home Irwan Shah's deep cross from the left.
Bali returned for the second half with more vigour, and Spasojevic's snapshot in the box squirmed under Syazwan before Afiq Yunos got back to clear off the line.
The home side eventually retook the lead two minutes after the hour mark, with Spasojevic holding off Afiq before thrashing a fierce drive past Syazwan from a tight angle.
Tampines refused to back down and went close to grabbing a second equaliser on a couple of occasions.
On 70 minutes, Daniel Bennett saw his 20-yard volley pushed away by Hendrawan before Khairul Amri slipped on the rebound.
A minute later, Zulfadhmi drove a superb cross into the area for Fazrul Nawaz - whose header looked destined for the bottom right corner, before Hendrawan tipped it wide.
Bali would, however, seal the victory, deep into injury time, with Putra curling home a neat effort from the edge of the box to send the home fans wild.
The result means the Liga 1 side will meet Thailand's Chiangrai United in the second preliminary round on Jan. 23.
As for Tampines, they will drop into the AFC Cup and will possibly meet Malaysia giants Johor Darul Ta'zim in Group H. Indonesia's Persija Jakarta and Vietnam's Song Lam Nghe An make up the four-team group.
Bali United: Wawan Hendrawan (GK), I Made Andhika Wijaya, Ahn Byung-Koen, Demerson, Ricky Fajrin, Fadil Sausu (C), Stefano Lilipaly, Muhammad Taufiq, Nick van der Velden (Yabes Roni 76'), Illja Spasojevic, Irfan Bachdim (Hanis Saghara Putra 83')
Tampines Rovers: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Daniel Bennett, Mustafic Fahrudin (C), Afiq Yunos, Shannon Stephen (Shah Shahiran 82'), Amirul Adli, Safirul Sulaiman (Irfan Najeeb 78'), Irwan Shah, Fazrul Nawaz, Khairul Amri, Zulfadhmi Suzliman