By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Although the Stags entered the AFC Cup Group H clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium with no chance of qualifying for the Round of 16, there was still plenty for them to play for given the longstanding rivalry between Singaporean and Malaysian sides, plus the fact they were still looking for their first win in the tournament.
But despite carving out a host of good chances in the opening 45, they found themselves 2-0 down at halftime thanks to Jufri Taha's unfortunate own-goal and a neat finish from Amri Yahyah.
Nonetheless, Tampines showed excellent determination after the break and pulled one back in the 50th minute when opposition captain Asraruddin Putra Omar headed into his own net, before an awful clearance by Peter Chrappan allowed Aleksandar Duric to score and make it 2-2.
But with 14 minutes left on the clock, Amri produced a fine piece of individual skill to net what proved to be the winner and condemn the hosts to their fourth defeat of the tournament.
Speaking after the game, Bacina insists his side had actually played good football throughout their continental campaign but was again left to rue their profligate ways.
"First of all, I want to congratulate the Selangor team," he said. "I wish them all the best in the second round.
"I think it was a good game and the people that came tonight [Tuesday] were able to enjoy the play from both sides. I don't think we deserved to lose.
"The players put a lot of effort, skill and footballing knowledge into this competition but somehow things just didn't work out for us. I don't know why and I pity my players because I know how serious they were, especially in tonight's [Tuesday's] game.
"We couldn't score even with some very easy chances. The first half was our game as we controlled the play but even though we played the good football, they scored the goals.
"That is why football is the most popular game in the world - it doesn't mean the better team always win.
"Still, I have to congratulate my players for this AFC Cup campaign. Unfortunately, we have to admit we didn't do well but we have to look forward."
While Tampines and Warriors FC - the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League's representatives in the competition have both been eliminated, Selangor and Malaysia Super League rivals Kelantan both made it past the group stage.
But while Bacina does not believe this is a sign that Malaysian football is now of a higher level than that of their neighbours, he believes steps must be taken to ensure Singapore is not left behind in the coming years.
"I don't think so," the Croat replied, when asked if he believed Malaysia were now a stronger footballing force than Singapore. "As you know, the national team is the top team in Southeast Asia [after winning last year's AFF Suzuki Cup].
"But perhaps at club level, some people in Singapore are not fully interested in the AFC Cup. I'm not saying this about my club because we are very keen to play well.
"But you can see it in the crowd and the media coverage. When we went to India [to play East Bengal] it was a full room for the press conference, same as it was against Saigon [Xuan Thanh].
"A few years back, Singaporean teams used to easily go through to the second round. SAF [Warriors], Home United, Tampines... but all of us [in the S.League] are now facing the problem together.
"Other countries like India have grown a lot and are investing a lot in football and I think as a league we should follow that. Of course, slowly we too are growing but that's the best way.
"It's not just one club in Tampines, Home or SAF [Warriors] but the whole league. That's the best way for us to compete with the others in Southeast Asia."
Despite their disappointing continental displays, Tampines have been flying high in the S.League this season and are currently top of the table after picking up 25 points from their opening nine games.
Image courtesy of WSG