Tampines Rovers 1
Ceres La Salle 1
All they needed to do was hang on for two minutes more. But a lack of focus in the 88th minute of their AFC Cup game against Ceres La Salle ultimately cost Tampines Rovers two points.
This, after Spaniard Adrian Gallardo capitalised on a lapse in concentration by the Tampines defence to score and give the Philippine champions a 1-1 draw in front of 2,241 fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
Fortunately, the result did no harm to Tampines' lofty position in Group E. They still top the four-team group on seven points. Ceres are second on five points.
Before the game, V. Sundramoorthy had stressed the importance of his men capturing all three points at home as victories on the road are hard to come by. So it was no wonder the Stags coach felt let down.
He said: "It's disappointing to lose points at home especially at 1-0 up with a few minutes to go. We should have wrapped up the game but there was a lack of concentration."
However, he had high praise for Gallardo whom he called a poacher, and warned his men to keep a lookout for the dangerous Spaniard when the sides meet in Bacolod on April 12.
Added the 50-year-old: "Gallardo is a really good player. Given the space and time, he will hurt us."
Hafiz Abu Sujad, whose 69th-minute strike was his second in the competition, said: "We were unlucky to have conceded the late goal but all of us gave our best.
"We were aiming to get all the points at home and we have to improve. But we are still top and there are still three more games to go so we have to focus and look forward.
"Ceres are a good team with all their national players. It's going to be a tough battle (in Bacolod) but nothing is impossible as long as we correct our mistakes."
Ceres had the best chance of the first half in the 44th minute when Bienvenido Marra On tricked his way past the Tampines defence and shot narrowly wide of Izwan Mahbud's near post.
The second half started off with near misses for both teams. First, Marra On cut in from the left and shot just wide of Izwan's right post in the 48th minute.
Four minutes later, Billy Mehmet nearly put away Hafiz's cross but was denied by Ceres' defenders.
Tampines finally broke the deadlock in the 69th minute when Hafiz bundled the ball home from a Jordan Webb cross.
But Ceres refused to leave empty-handed and they duly equalised in the 88th minute when Gallardo stabbed home from close range off a nod-down by Patrick Reichelt.
In the group's other game, Selangor beat Bangladeshi outfit Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi 4-3 in Dhaka.
Singapore's other AFC Cup representatives Balestier Khalsa lost 0-1 to Philippine side Kaya in Group F.