By Gabriel Tan
Well-taken goals from Aleksandar Duric and Ahmad Latiff gave the Stags a good lead at the Clementi Stadium on Thursday evening, but the game took a controversial turn on the hour mark when Loyola had a goal by Chad Gould chalked off, before referee Sukhbir Singh handed Kim Woo-chul a second yellow for taking the freekick before the whistle.
Tampines then had a goal of their own disallowed when a Duric effort was disallowed for offside, before they too were reduced to ten men when Benoit Croissant was handed his marching orders for a late challenge on Mark Hartmann two minutes from time.
Despite his side being in pole position to make it to the final of the competition, Tay believes his side could have claimed a more commanding lead, although he admitted they "played well".
"I don't think we are in a secure position," he said after the game. "We should have finished them [Loyola] off today [Thursday].
"A three-goal lead would have sewn up the tie. We were going for as many goals as possible and I'm not sure about some of the referee's decision as well, especially with our third goal.
"Generally I think the boys played well but we should have converted more of our chances into goals. I think it's a good result but we could have done better."
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Tay did however believe both Kim and Croissant deserved to have been sent off, but was slightly concerned with the way his side defended for Gould's offside goal.
"It [Kim's second yellow] was definitely the right decision," the ex-Singapore international added. "He asked for the wall to be set the full ten yards but didn't wait for the whistle to be blown - it's the law of the game.
"[For Croissant's sending-off] I think that was a silly challenge, especially with two minutes to go. He could have just kicked the ball away but went in for the tackle.
"We will definitely have to look at our defending. It is fortunate that the [Loyola] goal was disallowed because it was very poor defending."
The Sparks and Tampines meet again on Sunday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.