AFC CUP GROUP F
Tampines Rovers 1
Hanoi FC 1
Staring at defeat and with their game plan yet to bear fruit, it would have been tempting for Tampines Rovers to just hoof the ball long and hope for a lucky break.
But the Stags stuck to their principle of playing attacking football and managed to rescue a 1-1 draw against Hanoi FC in yesterday's AFC Cup Group F game.
"No, this is the way we play," insisted Tampines head coach Kadir Yahaya, when asked if he considered switching to direct tactics when his team trailed 1-0 just after the hour mark.
"We have to exert our style and philosophy. We cannot go for the long ball just because we are losing. We have to maintain our shape and discipline and to keep moving the ball."
The draw, played before 1,671 fans at Jalan Besar Stadium, meant that Hanoi stay top of the group with four points from two games, ahead of the Stags on goal difference.
In the other Group F match in the Asian Football Confederation's second-tier competition, Cambodia's Nagaworld FC beat Myanmar's Yangon United 2-1 in Phnom Penh.
Against Hanoi, Tampines built their moves with passes from the back even if it meant risking interceptions and counter-attacks from the pacy and technical Vietnamese side.
It was the visitors who struck first in the 62nd minute when goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari could not punch away an inswinging corner and the ball dropped to unmarked Senegalese striker Pape Omar Faye, who tapped home.
Undeterred, Tampines poured men forward and took full advantage of Hanoi's high defensive line in the 76th minute when winger Jordan Webb broke the offside trap, galloped clear before sliding the ball under goalkeeper Nguyen Van Cong and into the net to equalise.
The Vietnamese champions began their AFC Cup campaign in style with a 10-0 hammering of Nagaworld but found Tampines a much harder nut to crack.
But Hanoi coach Chu Dinh Nghiem absolved his team of any blame, saying: "I am happy with my players' performance, but I am just a little bit upset that we deserve the three points but didn't win.
"The main reason is the (artificial) field, which is very difficult to play on."
Tampines' next group game is away at Nagaworld on April 2.