It was a mixed bag for Singapore and Malaysian sides in the first game of the AFC Cup group stage this week.
FOX Sports Asia analyses and rates the performances of Tampines Rovers, Johor Darul Ta’zim and Home United.
(2-1 win over Felda United)
A decent start for the Stags, although coach Juergen Raab would have been disappointed if his side had failed to beat an admittedly poor Felda side. A cagey first-half performance saw Tampines dominate possession without creating any real quality openings before the game began to open up after the break when one of the Stags new signings – South Korean Son Yong Chan opened the scoring with a late run into the box. Khairul Amri then marked his appearance as a late sub with a tap in after good work on the right from another new signing, Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi.
Tampines, playing with a back three of Madhu Mohana, Daniel Bennett and Mustafic Fahrudin as sweeper were largely untroubled and the back three helped to instigate several attacks with accurate long balls down the flanks as Raab’s men played a neat possession game. A late goal out of the blue from Felda saw the back line come under some pressure late on, but they dealt with it without any major dramas.
VERDICT: B- A promising start considering the short time Raab has had with the side, although the other group games promise to provide tougher tests.
(3-0 win over Boeung Ket Angkor)
An early goal was the boost that Benjamin Mora’s side needed after some lacklustre showings in the Malaysian Super League and Gabriel Guerra’s goal after just three minutes obviously helped them to settle down. Nazmi Faiz then scored with a quality first-time finish into the bottom corner just a few minutes later as JDT went onto dominate the game with skipper Safiq Rahim, Nazmi, and Afiq Fazail pulling the strings in the centre of the park, creating chance after chance as Boeung Ket were put to the sword. It could have been a much more convincing win, but in the end the 2015 champions had to settle for just three when Safiq put the icing on the cake with a late header. Mora will now look to use this dominant performance to kick start Johor’s domestic season.
VERDICT: B+ This was the kind of JDT that we are used to, but there is still some work to do if Mora’s side is to reach the same level as the team did under Mario Gomez.
(1-0 loss to Yadanarbon)
A disappointing return to continental competition for the Protectors as Aidil Sharin’s decision to switch to a 4-4-2 didn’t pay off. Home, who gave a surprise debut to Croatian Marijan Suto, failed to create any chances during the first half, while the defence struggled to deal with the strong running of Yadanarbon’s front line, and in particular star man Aung Thu, who gave the hosts the lead on the stroke of half-time. Home looked better in the second half and created a few chances, but it was not to be, as the closest they came was when the impressive Faris Ramli’s shot came back off the bar. Sharin will need to quickly settle on a winning formation and line up in time for the next game in three weeks if Home are to progress from the group.
VERDICT: C Not the result Home wanted or needed, and a complete let down after the promise shown against Phnom Penh Crown in qualifying.