The Singapore Cup is "finished" for Tampines Rovers, who now plan to concentrate on winning their first S.League title in four years, according to coach Jurgen Raab.
Tampines suffered a disastrous 5-1 home loss to champions Albirex Niigata (S) in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Thursday night. It gives them virtually no chance of turning around the tie ahead of the second leg at Jurong East Stadium on Sunday.
The Stags' woeful result came 24 hours after the exit of Home United from the AFC Cup after a 2-0 second-leg defeat to Ceres-Negros in the Philippines. That meant that the Protectors lost 3-2 on aggregate in the ASEAN Zonal final to cap off a disappointing week during which Singapore celebrates National Day.
"Now, for us, it's finished with the Singapore Cup," Raab said. "Now we must show a good performance on Sunday, and that must be preparation then for the S.League meeting with them one week later."
Tampines remain Albirex's closest challengers in the S.League. In second position, they trail the Japanese outfit by nine points, with two games in hand. Home United are a further point behind.
Raab's side were never in the hunt against Albirex in their second match at Our Tampines Hub, conceding twice before half-time, with playmaker Kento Nagasaki grabbing the first of his two goals.
They trailed 5-0 before Shahdan Sulaiman grabbed a late consolation from the penalty spot after Khairul Amri was brought down.
"I'm not disappointed by the performance or how we played, only disappointed by the score and we made it too easy for this team," Raab said.
"It's the second time now. The 4-1 loss [earlier this season] was the same... too easy they can score goals and come into this position playing from defence, which they do very well.
"They can play their style and we must open, but that's our responsibility. It's not difference in quality from the score in both teams, that's not right, but that's the reality."
Albirex achieved their convincing victory without top scorer Tsubaso Sano, who was rested after a hectic, recent schedule.
"[Sano} is still recovering from an injury from the last game. As far as possible, we do not want to use him in this game and it's good that we didn't have to call him into action," Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga said.
"I think we are lucky to have won 5-1. Tampines are still a strong opponent and it's good to have won 5-1 but we still have to prepare for the second leg.
"The tie isn't over yet - this is only the first half."
As for Home United, they will need to pick themselves up after the AFC Cup disappointment before facing up to Steve Kean's Brunei DPMM over two legs in their quarterfinal. The first match will be held at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday, with the return leg at Bishan Stadium on Aug. 16.
Home coach Aidil Sharin put a positive spin on his team's AFC Cup performance, despite coming up short in Bacolod City against an impressive Ceres team.
"Overall I would say our AFC Cup campaign was a positive one, because nobody thought we could reach the final," he told The New Paper.
"We set up a team this year with so many new players, and to get the team to click in a few months and reach an AFC Cup final is not easy.
"The players gave everything, all their commitment and desire. So, I don't see this as a setback."
Home United will again be without key central defender Irfan Fandi who is with the Singapore U22 squad ahead of next week's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football competition.