Tampines throw away two-goal advantage
ALBIREX NIIGATA 2
(Kazuki Sakamoto 74 pen, 88)
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Noh Alam Shah 33, Jake Butler 61)
For the second day in a row, Brunei DPMM were the biggest winners in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, without even taking to the field.
The league leaders watched as their four direct rivals played each other and picked up a solitary point each after dramatic finishes in their respective matches.
On Sunday, Warriors FC needed a 94th-minute goal to hold Home United to a 2-2 draw at the Bishan Stadium.
Last night, defending champions Tampines Rovers surrendered a two-goal lead as they were held by Albirex Niigata by the same scoreline, at the Jurong East Stadium.
DPMM themselves will now look to capitalise when they entertain unfancied Woodlands Wellington in Bandar Seri Begawan tonight.
Last night, Tampines were left fuming after referee Ahmad A'qashah awarded the hosts a controversial penalty in the 73rd minute that gave the White Swans hope.
Stags defender Anaz Hadee appeared to win the ball cleanly off Kazuya Okazaki with a firm but fair challenge, but A'qashah, who was only metres away, had no doubt.
Kazuki Sakamoto stepped up to fire the ball past Tampines goalkeeper Justin Pasfield.
The penalty changed the complexion of the match as the Japanese side, renowned for their supreme fitness, turned the screws in the final 15 minutes.
Just two minutes before the end, Sakamoto was the man on the spot for the Albirex again, curling the ball past Pasfield from the edge of the box.
The 25-year-old's brace last night took him to the top of the S.League's scoring charts with 19 goals.
Tampines team manager Clement Teo, who faced the press in place of coach Rafi Ali who had screamed himself hoarse during the game, did not want to criticise the penalty decision.
"In football, you gain some and you lose some," he said.
"From where we were seated, we felt Anaz got the ball but I don't want to comment on the referee.
"What has happened has happened, and there's no point crying over spilt milk."
Teo was more unhappy with what he felt was a lack of focus and concentration that allowed Albirex to pull level.
When asked if his team were fortunate to earn the controversial penalty, Albirex coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama coolly said: "I don't think we were lucky.
"We got one penalty, but we could have gotten two more."
Tampines drew first blood after 33 minutes when Noh Alam Shah latched on to a clever backheel from Jozef Kaplan to dink the ball over Albirex goalkeeper Kenjiro Ogino.
The Stags doubled their lead in the 61st minute, when Jake Butler's effort from outside the box curled in off Ogino's upright.
But Sakamoto's double put paid to their hopes of pulling closer to DPMM, who play their game in hand tonight.
ALBIREX: Kenjiro Ogino, Kento Fujihara, Shuhei Hotta, Norihiro Kawakami, Itsuki Yamada, Koki Akasaka (Kazuya Fukuzaki 69), Kosuke Matsuda, Keisuke Ota, Kazuki Sakamoto, Taiyo Nishida (Kento Nagasaki 67), Kazuya Okazaki
TAMPINES: Justin Pasfield, Jufri Taha, Mustafic Fahrudin, Kunihiro Yamashita, Shaiful Esah (Anaz Hadee 67), Imran Sahib (Miljan Mrdakovic 69), Jake Butler, Shahdan Sulaiman, Jozef Kaplan, Aleksandar Duric, Noh Alam Shah
TNP Man of the Match: Kazuki Sakamoto
Last night's other match:
TANJONG PAGAR 1 (Firdaus Idros 59)
GEYLANG 2 (Leo Felice 5, 61)
- Balestier Khalsa v Hougang United
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
- Geylang International v Albirex Niigata (S)
(Thursday, 7.30pm, Bedok Stadium)
- Home United v Courts Young Lions
(Thursday, 7.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
- Warriors FC v Tampines Rovers
(Friday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Woodlands Wellington v Harimau Muda
(Saturday, 7.30pm, Woodlands Stadium)
- Tanjong Pagar United v Brunei DPMM
(Saturday, 7.30pm, Queenstown Stadium)
Mass qigong at match
More than 250 Yuhua residents participating in a mass qigong demonstration during the half-time break of last night's match between Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers. Albirex donates $1 to the Yuhua Community Sports Club for every fan who attends their home games.