Tampines Rovers 3 (Mrdakovic 37, 69; Closa 62)
Pune FC 1 (Mustapha pen 15)
Tampines Rovers: Hyrulnizam Juma’at; Anaz Hadee, Shariff Allapitchay (Ang Zhiwei 88), Norihiro Kawakami, Shaiful Esah; Jamil Ali (Ismadi Mukhtar 81), Fahrudin Mustafic, Shahdan Sulaiman, Luis Closa; Aleksandar Duric (Imran Sahib 90+1), Miljan Mrdakovic
Pune FC: Amrinder Singh; Zohmingliana Ralte, Anas Edathodika (Thongkhosiem Haokip 83), Calum Angus, Gurjinder Kumar; Gabriel Fernandes, Mumtaz Akhtar (Lalrempuia Fanai 46), Douhou Pierre, Anthony D’Souza (Srikanth Ramu 36); Riga Mustapha; Mirjan Pavlovic
Pune FC suffered a 3-1 defeat against Singapore champions Tampines Rovers in a Group H encounter of the AFC Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore on Wednesday evening.
Riga Mustapha successfully converted a spotkick to put the Indian side in front in the first half but a brace from Serbian Miljan Mrdakovic and another goal from Paraguayan Luis Closa saw the S-League holders record their first victory of this year’s AFC Cup while the Red Lizards remain winless with two points from three matches.
Pune coach Mike Snoei made four changes to the lineup that started in the 2-2 draw with Kicthee last week as Australian centre-forward Pavlovic got his first start in the AFC Cup.
There were not really any surprises in the Tampines eleven as Aleksandar Duric and Mrdakovic started together upfront in a 3-5-2 system.
Having lost their first two fixtures, hosts Tampines were determined to start well and they did look bright in the early stages. The Stags nearly opened the scoring in the tenth minute when Japanese defender Norihiro Kawakami’s header from a corner was cleared of the line by Gabriel Fernandes.
Four minutes later though Pune were awarded a penalty when Pavlovic was brought down inside the box by Tampines keeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at. The experienced former Bolton player Mustapha scored from the spot after sending Juma’at the wrong way.
The goal didn’t really change the complexion of the game as the home side continued to dominate possession but were wasteful in front of goal as both Shahdan Sulaiman and Mrdakovic failed to hit the target from close range.
Midway through the first period, Pune keeper Amrinder Singh was called into action as the youngster had to be alert to stop Closa’s 25-yard strike.
Tampines’ great spell continued with winger Jamil Ali looking dangerous and that saw Snoei make a defensive change as Anthony D’Souza made way for Srikanth Ramu.
Just when it looked like Pune had weathered the Tampines pressure, a huge mix-up between skipper Anas Edathodika and goalkeeper Amrinder saw the latter handle a backpass inside the box.
From the resulting indirect freekick inside the Pune box, Mrdakovic equalised. Fahrudin Mustafic’s initial effort had been blocked but then the Tampines skipper passed to Mrdakovic, who calmly found the back of the net.
Pune improved after conceding that goal and created couple of good openings before the interval. First Gabriel’s teasing cross nearly found Pavlovic in the box and then Mustapha got the better of Kawakami but his shot from just outside the box didn’t test Juma’at.
Snoei made another change at the interval as Lalrempuia Fanai replaced Mumtaz Akhtar in midfield but Tampines started well in the second half also. However the home team’s finishing was poor as Mrdakovic and Closa failed to find the target from promising positions.
Pune slowly picked up their game with some nice interplay between Douhou Pierre and Gurjinder Kumar saw the latter eventually send in a cross for Gabriel, whose shot went narrowly wide.
Just after the hour mark, Tampines deservingly went in front as Pavlovic rounded off a fine team move by setting up Closa and the Paraguayan’s powerful effort found the top left corner.
Pune tried to respond quickly with a last-ditch tackle from Anaz Hadee preventing Pavlovic from going clean through on goal.
Tampines soon increased their advantage when Srikanth failed to control Ali’s cross and allowed Mrdakovic to latch on to the loose ball and score past Amrinder.
The S-League outfit were happy to sit back and play on the counter attacks after their third goal and that allowed Pune to create a few opportunities. But the I-league side didn’t test Juma’at enough while at the other end Sulaiman and Mrdakovic went close.
Pune’s best chance of the second half fell to Mustapha after some nice work by Douhou but the former Levante attacker blasted his effort over the bar when he only had Juma’at to beat.
Snoei introduced Thongkhosiem Haokip in the closing stages and having two strikers upfront saw Pune put a lot more pressure on the Tampines goal. Juma’at was forced into a couple of saves but in the end Pune couldn’t reduce the deficit.
The result drops Pune to the bottom of the group while Kitchee remain on top after their 2-0 home victory over Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw FC.Published 19 Mar 2014, 18:55 IST