Football: S-League kicks off at National Stadium with plenty of drama as Albirex beat Tampines 2-1

SINGAPORE - Entertaining football, a 15,480-strong crowd, three red cards, a penalty retake, and three goals.

The 22nd season of the S-League kicked off at the National Stadium on Sunday (Feb 26) and the fans were treated to an exciting clash as reigning champions Albirex Niigata recorded a 2-1 victory over Tampines Rovers in the Community Shield.

For the first time, an S-League match was held at the 55,000-seat National Stadium at Kallang.

While the White Swans dominated the game for most of the first half, it was the Stags who drew first blood, stunning their opponents in the 36th minute when Croatian import Ivan Dzoni's cross from the right flank found Japanese midfielder Ryutaro Megumi who headed past goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa.

Drama ensued in the second half, when Tampines was awarded a penalty in the 58th minute. Dzoni's successful first attempt was disallowed and referee Sukhbir Singh ordered a retake. But this time, the shot rocketed off the bar.

The Stags were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Yasir Hanapi was sent off in the 64th minute for picking up his second yellow card.

After missing several clear-cut chances, Albirex finally equalised in the 74th minute through substitute striker Shoichiro Sakamoto.

He scored again in the 82nd minute to seal the turnaround for the Japanese outfit.

The drama continued late into the match as Tampines finished with eight players on the field. Stags' skipper Madhu Mohana was shown a red card in the 88th minute, followed by fellow defender Ismadi Mukhtar two minutes later to send the crowd into a chorus of boos at the final whistle.