Advantage Albirex as Lion City Sailors and Tampines Rovers both falter
It was a super Sunday for Singapore Premier League leaders Albirex Niigata as they not only beat title rivals Lion City Sailors 3-2, but also saw fellow contenders Tampines Rovers held 2-2 by bottom side Tanjong Pagar United.
On a wet pitch at Bishan Stadium, it was visitors Albirex who made a splash as forward Tomoyuki Doi thumped in a 13th-minute opener.
But the hosts, who were without hamstrung top scorer Stipe Plazibat, replied just nine minutes later.
Former national skipper Shahril Ishak showed all his experience to win a penalty which Song Ui-young converted.
Albirex regained the lead in the 34th minute with Ryosuke Nagasawa seizing onto Tajeli Salamat's loose pass and setting up Fairoz Hasan. But, just before the break, Tajeli made amends for his error by heading in Shahdan Sulaiman's corner to make it 2-2.
Surprisingly, Shahril was hooked at half-time and the Sailors missed his link-up play. Albirex went on to secure victory through substitute Yasuhiro Hanada's first-time finish from Kazuki Hashioka's cross in the 77th minute.
With four games left, Albirex are top with 23 points. Tampines are two points behind and the Sailors another four adrift.
Getting his hands on the league trophy would be a remarkable turnaround for Fairoz, who was left clubless after his previous team Warriors FC had to sit out the season due to financial issues.
The journeyman, 31, said: "It was a bad start to the year, and I never expected Albirex to be the team that would give me the opportunity to continue my career... winning the league would be something special to remember my career by."
A dejected Sailors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny refused to throw in the towel. He said: "We failed today, but we are still not out of the running completely."
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER MATCH:
- Tanjong Pagar United 2 Tampines Rovers 2