Singapore Premier League • November 14, 2015
Stags Defeat White Swans To Take Title Race Down To The Wire
Written by: Shawn Lim
Tampines Rovers ensured that the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League title race will be decided on the final day of the season after defeating Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 at Jurong East Stadium on Friday night.
Rodrigo Tosi’s 14th goal of the season was enough to secure victory for the Stags and the win meant that they trimmed Brunei DPMM’s lead at the top of the table to just two points before their final game of the season against Harimau Muda.
However, Tampines will again need nothing but a victory against the Young Tigers and hope that Balestier Khalsa do them a favour by beating DPMM, in order to clinch the title.
The visitors pressed the hosts high up the pitch from the off as they looked to make a good start to the game, but were unable to convert their chances in front of goal.
Albirex custodian Yosuke Nozawa was called into action just three minutes into the game when he was required to punch away Ismail Yunos’s curling cross before it could reach the lurking Tosi.
A long ball punted upfront by the Albirex defence found Rion Taki in the third minute and the striker made a neat turn inside the 18-yard box before firing his volley into the side-netting.
Tosi was unlucky not to give the visitors the lead in the ninth minute after his bullet header from Shaiful Esah’s corner came crashing off the frame of the goal post.
An uncharacteristic error from Shun Inaba four minutes later saw him giving the ball away to Mateo Roskam on the edge of the 18-yard box, but the latter sent his fierce drive sailing wide of the mark.
Fumiya Kogure tried his luck in the 20th minute after winning the ball in midfield, but Tampines custodian Rodgrio Pacheco had no problems dealing with the Japanese’s piledriver.
Tampines missed a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock when Ismadi Mukhtar’s shot from outside the box was helped on towards goal by Firdaus Idros in the 32nd minute, but Itsuki Yamada came to the White Swans’ rescue by clearing the ball off the line.
The Stags gradually built momentum after the interval and got the breakthrough eight minutes into the second period when Roskam’s beautifully weighted cross was met at the far post by Tosi, who powered a header into the bottom corner of the net.
Shaiful wasted a great opportunity to put the visitors further ahead in the 72nd minute when his dangerous free-kick from 15-yards was deflected off the wall and out for a corner.
Taki was then guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance to help Albirex pull level in the 78th minute after Mikiya Yamada did well to hit the byline before playing a cross for him.
However, the striker saw his header whizzed past the woodwork despite being only five yards away from goal.
Tampines coach V.Sundramoorthy was subsequently sent to the stands for dissent in the 81st minute by referee Muhd Syahir after protesting the latter’s decision to award a yellow card to Aqhari Abdullah.
There was a scare for the Stags deep in stoppage time after they failed to properly clear Kogure’s free-kick, but was let off the hook when Taki lashed a shot from inside the 18-yard box just wide of the post.
Further goals failed to materialise for the visitors as they decided to throw every man behind the ball to defend their lead, but they managed to hold on to their lead till the final whistle for the crucial three points.
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK) (C), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Takahiro Saito, Itsuki Yamada, Hikaru Mizuno, Shun Inaba, Kento Nagasaki (Yusuke Mukai 82’), Fumiya Kogure, Rion Taki, Atsushi Kawata
Tampines Rovers: Rodrigo Tosi (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar (C), Jufri Taha (Aqhari Abdullah 67’), Shaiful Esah, Ismail Yunos, Pedrag Pocuca, Isa Halim, Firdaus Idros, Naeem Rahimi, Mateo Roskam, Rodrigo Tosi