SINGAPORE - Tampines Rovers, the pre-season title favourites, failed to close the gap on S-League leaders Albirex Niigata as they suffered a 1-2 loss to Home United at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
As Home picked up their third straight victory that catapulted them to third spot (18 points) in the nine-team standings, Tampines (21 points) were left to rue their failure to put pressure on Albirex, who have a five-point lead over the Stags.
V. Sundramoorthy's men opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Fazrul Nawaz lobbed goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Jumaat, who was drawn out wide but failed to intercept the ball.
It was the 31-year-old Singapore international striker's first goal since the March 29 World Cup qualifier between Singapore and Afghanistan.
But more importantly, the goal also ended Fazrul's eight-game drought in the S-League. The veteran striker was last season's top local scorer with 18 goals when he played for Warriors FC, but he has found the net only twice in 11 games so far this year. He last scored on Feb 26, when Tampines beat Hougang United 4-1 in their second game this season.
But Tampines' lead lasted only a minute, as the Protectors equalised immediately when captain Juma'at Jantan's cross was met by midfielder Azhar Sairudin's header.
Despite sending on Jermaine Pennant after the break, the former English Premier League player could not make an impact.
And Danish import Ken Ilso scored his seventh goal of the season to give Home the lead - and the victory - in the 70th minute.