Rested Stags raring to go

(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

Kadir's men motivated for AFC Cup game to atone for slip-up against DPMM in SPL

Tampines Rovers have dipped after a fine start to the season, but head coach Kadir Yahaya believes they have been rejuvenated by a 10-day break for their AFC Cup Group F game with Nagaworld FC.

The Stags scored 15 goals as they won four and drawn one of their first five games in all competitions.

But they squandered a host of chances in a 0-0 draw with Albirex Niigata in the Singapore Premier League on March 29. They beat Nagaworld 5-1 in Phnom Penh four days later but slipped, 2-1, at Brunei DPMM on April 7.

Kadir said the travelling had taken its toll on his players.

At the pre-game press conference at the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel yesterday, 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 rested them and now they're coming back fresh."

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 and we are raring to go.

"We will use the loss as a motivation to get back to winning ways and do even better."

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

"It was quite even and, at 1-1, (they) had clear chances to make it 2-1 but were not able to take it," said the former Singapore defender. "After that we controlled the game and scored our goals.

"So we are taking this game very seriously."

Tampines top the group with seven points after three games in Asia's second-tier competition, ahead of Vietnam's Hanoi FC (four), Nagaworld and Myanmar's Yangon United (both on three).

Nagaworld coach Meas Channa is bracing for another onslaught, singling out the trio of Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi, Canadian forward Jordan Webb and Serbian playmaker Zehrudin Mehmedovic as the danger men at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.

"It will be very tough for us," said Channa, 35, whose side were trounced 10-0 in Hanoi in February. "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."

TAMPINES V NAGAWORLD

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline 'Rested Stags raring to go'. Print Edition | Subscribe