Tampines in last 16 of AFC Cup
Yasir wonder goal sends Sundram's men through to last 16
TAMPINES ROVERS 1
(Yasir Hanapi 31)
With an expert swivel of his left foot, Tampines Rovers midfielder Yasir Hanapi bent the ball beautifully beyond Selangor goalkeeper Khairulazhan Khalid into the top corner in the 31st minute and sent his team to dreamland.
It was a moment of magic by the 26-year-old that deservedly ended up as the matchwinner in front of 11,875 fans at the National Stadium as Tampines won 1-0.
And it was enough to see Tampines through to the knockout stages of the AFC Cup as Group E runners-up for the first time since 2011.
The last time an S.League club reached the Round of 16 was in 2012, when Home United got out of the group stages of Asian club football's second-tier competition.
Tampines will now take on Mohun Bagan on May 24 in Kolkata. The Indian side had beaten the Stags 3-1 earlier this year in the AFC Champions League qualifiers.
"I can't describe the feeling other than I'm so very happy," said Singapore international Yasir, who has developed a knack for wonder goals, including a stunning volleyed equaliser in the 3-3 against former club Geylang International in their first S.League match this season.
"I have been having the scoring feeling over the last few games but I couldn't convert. There is no secret to my scoring. I think I'm just lucky.
"Our morale is high and I think we can get a good result in the next round."
"I have been having the scoring feeling over the last few games but I couldn’t convert. There is no secret to my scoring. I think I’m just lucky." — Tampines goalscorer Yasir Hanapi
Like the unsightly pitch that required spray-painting to cover the sponsorship branding from the Singapore Rugby Sevens three weeks ago, the match got off to a tepid start.
It was not until the 23rd minute that Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud had a save to make and he needed to be alert to tip over Robert Cornthwaite's header.
The match then came to life as the home side pressed and, after Yasir's stunning strike, the Stags continued to apply pressure against a poor Selangor outfit.
But Izwan had to come to his team's rescue just before half-time when he pushed away Mauro Olivi's free-kick from the bottom corner.
With Yasir indomitable in midfield and Jermaine Pennant lively on the wings, Tampines remained in control in the second half and Hafiz Abu Sujad thudded a thunderous left-footer against the post in the 67th minute.
The match turned when Tampines striker Billy Mehmet was sent off four minutes from time for a harsh second yellow after he got involved in a melee.
Selangor striker Patrick Wleh flashed a bicycle kick wide in added time, but in truth the Red Giants failed to come up big in a match where they needed only a draw to advance to the next round.
Their 200 travelling fans made their displeasure known as some inched towards the railings, clutching the badges on their jerseys, as if to question their players' commitment.
Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, who pre-match had claimed the Malaysian Super League was of better quality than the S.League, was naturally disappointed with the result.
The former Malaysia striker said: "We gave away a goal and had a tough time looking for the equaliser. We had chances but we couldn't convert.
"So well done to Tampines, but bad luck for us."
Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy, who now has an impressive unbeaten record of three wins and three draws against Selangor, felt his team proved that the S.League was becoming increasingly competitive and heading in the right direction.
He added: "It is a plus point to see more than 10,000 fans here to watch us play and win.
"We know Mohun Bagan's strengths as we've played them before. We want to go there, get the win, and push as far as possible in this competition."
It is a plus point to see more than 10,000 fans here to watch us play and win. — Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy (above) on the National Stadium crowd
- TAMPINES ROVERS: Izwan Mahbud, Noh Rahman, Mustafic Fahrudin, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Jermaine Pennant (Ismadi Mukhtar 81), Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi (Kwon Jun 84), Shahdan Sulaiman (Fabian Kwok 90), Hafiz Abu Sujad, Billy Mehmet.
- SELANGOR: Khairulazhan Khalid, Azrif Nasrulhaq, Shahrom Abdul Kalam, Robert Cornthwaite, Raimi Nor, Andik Vermansyah, Veenod Subramaniam (Adam Nor Azlin 68), Nazmi Faiz, R Gopinathan (Ahmad Hazwan Bakri 60), Patrick Wleh, Mauro Olivi.
- TNP Man of the Match: Yasir Hanapi (Tampines)