Football: Inui spot kick settles game against Tampines as Albirex return to top of table

A Tatsuro Inui penalty was just enough to seal the win for Albirex Niigata against Tampines Rovers at Jurong East Stadium, bringing the White Swans to the top of the S-League football table again while ending the Stags' unbeaten start to the season.

Atsushi Shirota was pulled down in the box by Tampines skipper Fahrudin Mustafic and Inui stepped up to successfully convert the spot kick in the 70th minute for his second goal of the campaign. Goalkeeper Joey Sim dove the right way towards his left, but Inui's effort was just too high.

From the beginning, however, the Stags were the ones with a slew of chances to score. Tampines kicked off the first half and immediately started carving out chances within the first five minutes.

In the second minute, Stags midfielder Jordan Webb put in a low cross into the box but striker Billy Mehmet was unable to connect. Minutes later, a Jermaine Pennant free kick led to Mustafic scuffing a close-range volley.

Albirex too has their shots, when the league's leading scorer Atsushi Kawata's powerful header off a free kick from the right glanced wide.

However, the best chance of the game came when captain Masaya Jitozono unleashed a low shot from outside the box. The Stags' goalkeeper Sim was well-beaten but the long-ranger cannoned off the inside post to go out of play.

The second half was a quiet affair, right until the White Swans netted the game's sole goal. Tampines spurned a golden opportunity to equalise in the 80th minute when Pennant sprinted cleared down the right to cross but substitute Fazrul Nawaz fired over from close range.

In the 89th minute, it looked like Tampines were given a lifeline, when Afiq Yunos' powerful shot was parried by White Swans custodian Yosuke Nosawa but it was pushed into the path of Fazrul, who fired home the rebound. Unfortunately for the Stags, it did not as the the latter was offside.

Albirex now lead the standings with 17 points, leapfrogging previous leaders Hougang United (16 points). Meanwhile, Tampines' first S-League defeat this year leaves them on 14 points, behind champions Brunei DPMM but with a game in hand over the top three.

yogarajp@sph.com.sg