News • April 17, 2016
White Swans Hand Stags Their First Defeat In The League
Written by: Sebastian Lim
Albirex Niigata (S) moved to the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table after edging out Tampines Rovers 1-0 in front of a 2,550-strong crowd at the Jurong East Stadium on Saturday evening.
After a goalless first-half, Tatsuro Inui’s successful penalty conversion midway through the second-half proved enough for the White Swans to go one point clear of Hougang United at the summit.
Following a rather scrappy start, the game’s first chance of note came after 14 minutes when striker-turned-wingback Atsushi Kawata glanced a header agonisingly wide off a freekick from the left.
At the other end, Tampines’ turn to carve out a chance of their own came just after the half-hour mark.
Shakir Hamzah’s effort was parried by Yosuke Nozawa and the rebound fell to Billy Mehmet, but the latter’s shot was brilliantly charged down by Kento Fujihara and cleared to safety.
The best chance of the half however, came minutes before the break when Masaya Jitozono’s piledriver from outside the area beat Tampines custodian Joey Sim, but not the post.
Sensing a need to change things, Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy hauled off a rather ineffectual Mehmet, who was also suffering a swollen shin, for Fazrul Nawaz at the break and it almost nearly paid dividends.
Minutes after his introduction, Fazrul took advantage of Albirex’s poor defending, but could only fire over the bar from close range while under pressure.
The Singapore international then dispossessed Atsushi Shirota easily outside the area, before attempting a lobbed shot at goal which Nozawa dealt with comfortably in the 57th minute.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute when referee Ahmad A’Qashah pointed to the spot after Mustafic Fahrudin was adjudged to have pulled down Shirota from behind in the box.
Up stepped Inui and the substitute calmly sent his spot kick past the flailing arms of Sim to put the White Swans in front.
Sundram threw caution to the wind after conceding, moving Afiq Yunos upfront and Izzdin Shafiq into defence and his move was nearly rewarded with an equaliser ten minutes from time.
Fazrul however, was guilty of squandering yet another excellent chance as he somehow stabbed the ball over the bar from two yards out after meeting Jermaine Pennant’s low cross.
Tampines then thought they had salvaged a point in the dying moments of the game, but the flag went up against Fazrul as Albirex hung on to hand Tampines their first defeat in seven league games.
Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naruo: “Today was a good game for us and our players showed a good performance. It was very scary for me in the last five minutes when Tampines came at us as they are a strong team with big and strong players.
“I cannot say we are on track for the title but we managed to win this type of games so we have had good results and I hope we keep going like that for the rest of the season.
Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy: “I believe it was a good game with end-to-end action, we had our chances but we didn’t take them. I thought we played well, we created chances and the boys gave everything.
“We want to be unbeaten but I’m sad we lost this way. If we had played badly and lost, i would be okay. On any other day, we should have gotten at least a point. We cannot change the result, we have to move on and look forward to the next game.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Mikiya Yamada (Kazuki Mine 82’), Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Masaya Jitozono (C), Atsushi Kawata, Daichi Ishiyama (Tatsuro Inui 60’), Rui Kumada (Tomoki Menda 60’)
Tampines Rovers: Joey Sim (GK); Ismadi Mukhtar (Christopher Van Huizen 82’), Mustafic Fahrudin (C), Yasir Hanapi (Sufian Anuar 88’), Shahdan Sulaiman, Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb, Izzdin Shafiq, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Billy Mehmet (Fazrul Nawaz 46’)