PSM Makassar’s 3-1 win over 10-man Tampines Rovers in the second Group H match of the AFC Cup in Cheras on Monday leaves Kuala Lumpur City needing to beating the Singapore club by three goals on Thursday to advance to the next stage.
Makassar leads the standings with four points ahead of Kuala Lumpur (1) and Tampines (0) with the latter two teams to meet in the third match to complete the group’s fixtures.
Only the top team in each of the Asean Zone’s three groups advances to the zonal semi-finals along with the best-placed runner-up.
While coach Bojan Hodak knew after the opening 0-0 draw with Makassar last Friday that Kuala Lumpur would need to beat Tampines no matter the circumstances, it became clearer that the task now means a three-goal victory margin is required to snatch top spot.
Anything less and fate will decide whether Kuala Lumpur’s journey in the tournament continues with the Group I match between Vietnam’s Viettel and Singapore’s Hougang United having a bearing on which team finishes as the best group runner-up.
For his part, Hodak wants the team to stay focused on what they need to do on Thursday – win.
“It will be very tough because Tampines before they had the player sent off, they were the better team. They were leading 1-0 and after the red card they collapsed,” said Hodak, referring to the 31st-minute dismissal of Chris Van Huizen when Tampines were ahead.
“So against us, they will have a different approach and it won’t be easy to win by three goals. They won’t be weakened much but with 11 players on the pitch, they will be more difficult to beat.
“At the end of the day, I think with four points both teams might be able to go through.
“First we need to focus on winning the game.”
Tampines were able to hold on to their lead given to them by Zehrudin Mehmedovic until the break but Makassar equalised just three minutes into the second half through Rizky Pratama before Everton Nascimento scored a late double.
“This is a two-chapter AFC Cup journey,” said Tampines coach Gavin Lee. “We’ve completed the first chapter and it didn’t end so well but we still have one more chapter to go. It’s down to us to determine how we define our ending.
Mathematically, we still have a chance. Tampines Rovers, when we still have a chance and hope, we never give up.
“When we went down to 10 men it became a little bit difficult. We thought we found the solution to see through the first half but in the second half, unfortunately, we conceded too early and that gave them the momentum. It was always going to be difficult from then on.”
Makassar spurned at least three late chances to pad their lead which would have given them a significant goal difference advantage, leaving the Indonesian club’s coach Bernardo Tavares fretting about what Kuala Lumpur might do to Tampines.
“I’m honest with you, we don’t have a chance to pass. On 30 June, Kuala Lumpur will pass and put three, four, five, six, seven easy,” said an enraged Tavares in an angry tirade after the match when he lambasted the Asian Football Confederation for changing the schedule without informing them, failure to install the video assistant review system and the quality of refereeing.
“This is why I am angry. Unfortunately now Tampines go down to Kuala Lumpur 5-0, 6-0 because this is for Kuala Lumpur.”