Albirex Niigata end Tampines' unbeaten run in S.League
Sundram's side suffer torrid week as they lose their unbeaten league record
ALBIREX NIIGATA 1
(Tatsuro Inui 69-pen)
TAMPINES ROVERS 0
The streak is over.
For the second time in a five days, V Sundramoorthy's star-studded Tampines Rovers side were tripped up by a penalty and this time, it cost them their unbeaten record in this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
Last Tuesday, the Stags were beaten 2-1 by Phillipine side Ceres la Salle in an AFC Cup group match in Bacolod City, which was their first defeat in 10 games across all competitions this season.
Ceres scored both their goals through penalties.
Last night in the S.League, the Stags were beaten 1-0 by Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium, again via a spot-kick.
Tatsuro Inui swept home the decisive strike from 12 yards, after Atsushi Shirota was hauled down by Tampines skipper Mustafic Fahrudin in the box, sending the White Swans back to the top of the table.
Naturally, Sundram was unhappy after the defeat.
"Another penalty," he said with a wry smile after the game.
"But it's 1-0, we can't change the result and we have to move on.
"We liked having the unbeaten streak and I'm sad we lost this way.
"The boys gave everything and we had our chances to score. We should have got something."
After leaving stars like Billy Mehmet, Jordan Webb, Shahdan Sulaiman and ex-Arsenal and Liverpool man Jermaine Pennant on the bench against Ceres, Sundram restored them all to the starting line-up last night.
They had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 33rd minute but left back Shakir Hamzah was denied by a great stop by Albirex goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa, before Mehmet's effort off the rebound was superbly blocked by Kento Fujihara.
Albirex went close themselves two minutes before half-time, when Masaya Jitozono's rasping shot from 25 metres rocked the upright.
After the White Swans took the lead through Inui's penalty, Tampines poured forward in search of an equaliser, but half-time substitute Fazrul Nawaz was guilty of spurning their best chance.
The national striker, who scored 18 S.League goals last season for Warriors FC, blasted over from barely two metres out after Pennant had squared the ball across the face of goal in the 80th minute.
Three minutes later, Fazrul got the ball in the back of the net when he reacted quickest after Nozawa's save off Afiq Yunos, but he was flagged offside.
The striker, who turns 31 today, also had a torrid outing in the last league game against Balestier, but Sundram backed him to come good.
"Strikers are like that," said the former Singapore international.
"Last year, everything he touched went into the back of the net.
"He's in a bad spell now but he's old enough to overcome it and he will turn it around."
Albirex coach Naoki Naruo was delighted with the win, although he admitted having heart-stopping moments towards the end.
"It was very scary for me in the last five minutes," he said.
"Tampines are a strong team with big, tall players, and we wanted to push up but had no chance.
"But I'm very happy with the result today."
- ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada (Kazuki Mine 83), Atsushi Shirota, Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Kawata, Masaya Jitozono, Shuto Inaba, Naofumi Tanaka, Daichi Ishiyama (Tatsuro Inui 60), Kento Nagasaki, Rui Kumada (Tomoki Menda 60)
- TAMPINES: Joey Sim, Ismadi Mukhtar (Chris van Huizen 83), Mustafic Fahrudin, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi (Sufian Anuar 88), Jermaine Pennant, Shahdan Sulaiman, Jordan Webb, Billy Mehmet (Fazrul Nawaz 46)
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Atsushi Shirota (Albirex)