Brilliant Amri fires Selangor into Round of 16

Amri Yahyah's brace helped Selangor to a 3-2 win at Tampines Rovers on Tuesday, which proved enough for a top-two finish in Group H and a spot in the Round of 16.

The match-winner gets a hug from his captain!
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

An unfortunate own-goal by Jufri Taha handed the Red Giants a 29th-minute lead at the Jalan Besar Stadium, and it was 2-0 right before the break when Amri applied the finishing touches to a sweeping attack.

However, a spirited fightback from Tampines saw them pull level within 14 minutes of the second half thanks to goals an Asraruddin Putra Omar own-goal and a close-range strike by Aleksandar Duric, but in the 76th minute, Amri netted his second of the game to hand the Malaysia Super League giants the three points.

The win proved to be enough for them to book a last-16 berth as group winners East Bengal did them a favour by beating Saigon Xuan Thanh 4-1 in Kolkata, allowing Irfan Bakti's men to overtake the Vietnamese side in second place.

With Tuesday's continental clash coming just three days after a vital league clash against LIONSXII,  Irfan Bakti opted to make six changes to his starting XI and it was telling early on as they struggled to find their rhythm.

Instead, it was the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League leaders who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and carved out the first chance in the 10th minute; Ahmed Fahmie delivering a lovely right-wing cross to Jamil Ali, who could only blast a first-time shot over.

11 minutes later, it was Shaiful Esah's turn to threaten the opposition goal when he lined up a 35-yard freekick and unleashed a good strike that just cleared the crossbar, before the visitors had their first effort on goal three minutes later when Amri's snapshot drew a smart save from Sasa Dreven, after he had been played through by Abdul Shukor Jusoh.

Jamil then almost inadvertently opened the scoring in the 25th minute when his mishit cross almost forced Sharbinee Allawee Ramli into a flying save, before he played a neat pass to pick out Sead Hadzibulic unmarked inside the box three minutes later, only for the Serbian to fire wide from ten yards.

A minute after the half-hour mark, Tampines were made to pay for their failure to convert their chances as the Red Giants took the lead when Shukor broke free down the left and drilled a cross into the six-yard box, where the unlucky Jufri could do little but turn the ball into his own net.

Two minutes later, the Stags nearly mustered an instant reply when Hadzibulic's incisive pass sent Jamil racing through and with only Sharbinee to beat he opted for an audacious chip, only to see it come back off the bar.

And just before the break, with Saigon trailing East Bengal 2-0 over in Kolkata, Selangor edged ever closer to the last 16 when they doubled their lead; Michal Kubala's visionary pass into the box picking out Raimi Nor, who fired the ball across the face of goal to leave Amri with a simple tap-in.

But just five minutes into the second half, their comfortable lead looked vulnerable once more when Tampines pulled one back after Firdaus Kasman's left-wing cross was inexplicably headed by Asraruddin into his own net, despite the Malaysia international being under no apparent pressure.

While they were already eliminated from the tournament, the hosts certainly had pride to play for, especially given the longstanding footballing rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, and they could have made it 2-2 in the 55th minute when Imran Sahib's perfectly-weighted pass picked out Fahmie at the far post but he could only blast straight at Sharbinee.

Nonetheless, there was to be no denying the Stags four minutes later as they found the equaliser when Peter Chrappan completely miskicked the ball in his attempt to clear a Shaiful cross, allowing Duric to pounce and fire into the roof of the net with a simple finish.

With East Bengal doing half the job for them by beating Saigon, it would have been a waste had Selangor thrown away a winning position. But as some of the players began to look deflated at the way they let slip their two-goal lead, Amri was the one man who continued to toil away in his bid to help the visitors edge ahead once more.

15 minutes from time, he nearly found the net with a brilliant strike after meeting K. Solehin's corner at the near post with an acrobatic volley from an acute angle, only to see it come back off the bar.

Over the years, the 32-year-old has proven on countless occasions that he only needs a slight chance to find the back of the net, and a minute later, that was exactly what he did when Fahrudin Mustafic could only head Mahalli Jasuli's right-wing towards him.

Showing immaculate control on his chest, Amri brought the ball down and into his stride and although the angle was tight, he proceeded to unleash a left-footed volley that sailed past Dreven and into the back of the net.

Having already thrown away a lead once, Selangor showed greater determination this time around in their attempt to see out the remainder of the game. And although the Stags had a couple of half-chances to make it 3-3 in the closing stages, the Red Giants held on to join Malaysia Super League rivals Kelantan in the Round of 16.

Tampines Rovers: Sasa Dreven (Ridhuan Barudin 84'), Jufri Taha, Fahrudin Mustafic, Anaz Hadee, Ahmed Fahmie (Khairul Amri 66'), Imran Sahib (Shannon Stephen 84'), Firdaus Kasman, Shaiful Esah, Jamil Ali, Sead Hadzibulic, Aleksandar Duric.

Selangor: Sharbinee Allawee Ramli (Norazlan Razali 84'), Mahalli Jasuli, Peter Chrappan, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Adib Aizuddin, K. Gurusamy, Abdul Shukor Jusoh (S. Veenod 90'), Michal Kubala (K. Solehin 72'), Raimi Nor, S. Kunanlan, Amri Yahyah.

Attendance: 839

Image courtesy of WSG

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