AFC Cup: Tampines Rovers revitalised by break, ahead of clash with Cambodia's Nagaworld

(From left) Nagaworld player Kouch Dani and coach Meas Channa with Tampines Rovers head coach Kadir Yahaya and defender Amirul Adli.
(From left) Nagaworld player Kouch Dani and coach Meas Channa with Tampines Rovers head coach Kadir Yahaya and defender Amirul Adli.ST PHOTO: SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ

SINGAPORE - Tampines Rovers have spluttered a little following a fine start to the season, but head coach Kadir Yahaya on Tuesday (April 16) said he believes a 10-day break ahead of their AFC Cup Group F game with Nagaworld FC on Wednesday has rejuvenated the squad.

The Stags had won four and drawn one of their first five games in all competitions, scoring 15 goals along the way, but then squandereda host of chances in a 0-0 draw with Albirex Niigata in the Singapore Premier League on March 29.

They rebounded by beating Nagaworld 5-1 in Phnom Penh three days later, but then slipped to a 2-1 loss to Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 7. Kadir said the travelling took its toll on his players.

Speaking at the pre-game press conference at the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel, the 51-year-old said: "It has been a much-needed break.

"We have been travelling, training, playing and it is tiring, especially for the national team boys who came back (from international duty in late-March).

"Some had niggling injuries, some were not 100 per cent fit, but we have got them rested and now they're coming back fresh. We hope the rest will see us give a good performance tomorrow."

Tampines defender Amirul Adli, 23, said he and his teammates are very motivated to bounce back from the DPMM loss.

"We are looking at the big picture; there are a lot of games this season and this is just one setback," he said. "We'll learn from our mistakes in the Brunei game, and we are raring to go. We will use the loss as a motivation for us to get back to our winning ways and do even better from now on."

Despite their handsome win in the first meeting with the Cambodian team , Kadir warned the scoreline flattered the Stags.

"The game was quite even, and at 1-1 (Nagaworld) had clear chance to make it 2-1 but were not able to take it," noted the former Singapore defender. "After that we controlled the game and scored our goals... So we are taking this game very seriously."

Tampines top Group F with seven points after three games, followed by Vietnam's Ha Noi (four), Nagaworld and Myanmar's Yangon United (both on three points).

Nagaworld coach Meas Channa, however, is bracing for another onslaught at the Jalan Besar Stadium. The 35-year-old singled out the Stags trio of Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi, Canadian attacker Jordan Webb and Serbian playmaker Zehrudin Mehmedovic as danger men.

"Tomorrow's game will be very tough for us," said Channa, whose side were also trounced 10-0 by Vietnamese side Ha Noi in an earlier Group F game.

"We played well in the first half (in Phnom Penh) so we will try to do that again, but we may have to be more defensive in the second half."