Albirex Niigata 1
Tampines Rovers 0
Tampines Rovers' unbeaten run in the S-League was finally halted after seven games with a 0-1 loss to new league leaders Albirex Niigata yesterday at the Jurong East Stadium - courtesy of a Tatsuro Inui spot-kick in the second half.
It was the Stags' second defeat in just five days, having previously lost away to Philippine side Ceres La Salle 2-1 on Tuesday. They have conceded three penalties in their last two matches.
Atsushi Shirota was pulled down in the box by Tampines skipper Fahrudin Mustafic in the 70th minute and Inui converted for his second goal of the campaign.
Coach V. Sundramoorthy said: "I'm sad that our unbeaten run ended this way.
"If we played badly and lost, I would agree but we played well and created chances.
"As for the penalty, we just have to look at the video and check what happened, but we can't change the result. We just have to move on but honestly, I would've wanted our team to have stayed unbeaten."
Tampines had more chances during the match, but were unable to capitalise on their opportunities to score.
In the second minute, Stags midfielder Jordan Webb put 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 squandered an opportunity to score when the league's leading scorer Atsushi Kawata connected with a powerful header off a free kick, only to see his effort go wide.
The best chance of the game came when Albirex captain Masaya Jitozono unleashed a low shot on goal from outside the box. Stags goalkeeper Joey Sim was well beaten but the long-range shot cannoned off the inside of the post to go out of play.
In the 89th minute, it looked as if Tampines had a lifeline as Afiq Yunos' powerful shot was parried by the White Swans' custodian Yosuke Nozawa into the path of Fazrul Nawaz.
Fazrul fired home the rebound, only to be ruled offside.
Albirex coach Naoki Naruo admitted he felt tension in the closing minutes as the opposition piled on the pressure.
He said: "For the last five minutes, I was actually quite scared because Tampines are a very strong team with strong players. We wanted to push up but we had no choice but to stay back and defend.
"I cannot say that we are on track for the title, but... we'll just keep it going for the rest of the campaign."
Albirex lead the S-League standings with 17 points, leapfrogging Hougang United. Meanwhile, Tampines are fourth on 14 points, but with a game in hand over the top three teams in the table.