Singapore Premier League side Tampines Rovers have had a good start to their AFC Cup 2019 campaign and sit atop Group F with two wins and a draw. But are they good enough to stay there and book a berth in the ASEAN Zone semifinals?
That is the question on everyone’s lips as we enter the second half of the AFC Cup group stages with Tampines hosting Cambodian League outfit Nagaworld FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
The Stags have not had runs to be very proud of in the recent editions of the continental competition with them crashing out in the 2018 edition finishing behind Persija Jakarta, SLNA FC and Johor Darul Ta’zim and in the 2017 season as well when they settled for a third place in the group behind Ceres-Negros and Hanoi FC.
Is the jury still out on Tampines Rovers?
However, the ongoing season so far has been a welcome change for the Singaporean outfit as they have flourished in the AFC Cup while their local rivals Home United FC have withered in its early stages.
Tampines began the campaign with a 3-1 win over Yangon United at the Thuwunna Stadium on Matchday 1 and were then held to a 1-1 draw by Vietnamese champions Hanoi who had made a statement of intent with a 10-0 win over Nagaworld FC in their opener.
They then faced Nagaworld, but looked vulnerable against the Cambodian club that had succumbed to the biggest-ever defeat in the AFC Cup history only a few weeks before.
After going down to a Dani Kouch goal in the first half, Tampines hit back through Jordan Webb just before the half time as the Canadian attacker’s cross managed to make all the way to the back of the net with fortune favouring the visiting side.
The second half was an altogether different ball game as the Stags ran Nagaworld ragged to score four more and win with a comfortable 5-1 margin to maintain their spot at the top of Group F. They have a three point lead over Hanoi FC while Yangon and Nagaworld are tied on three points.
But with only one team from each group guaranteed a spot in the semifinals of ASEAN Zone, their progress is anything but secured. They now face an ever-improving Nagaworld in the return fixture and then Yangon with both matches to be played in the comfort of their home.
AFC Cup 2019: Nagaworld FC 1-1 Tampines Rovers (Jordan Webb – 45′)
It all means that Group F could very well boil down to the final match day when Tampines travel to the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi to face the Vietnamese champions who look like one of the teams to beat at this AFC Cup.
But their immediate concern will be to negotiate the first two fixtures on hand starting with the tie against the Naga on Wednesday.