By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Having raced to a two-goal lead inside the opening 23 minutes thanks to goals from Aleksandar Duric and Fahrudin Mustafic, the Stags then took their foot off the pedal and allowed Albirex to pull level before the break thanks to close-range strikes from Kento Nagasaki and Kazuki Sakamoto.
15 minutes from time, the visitors then edged ahead after Shingo Suzuki broke free inside the area and fired into the far corner, but in the 88th minute, a horrible error by Hiroaki Hara saw him drop an easy catch at the feet of Duric, who made no mistake in tapping home the loose ball to salvage a share of the spoils for his side.
Although a win would have seen his side claim an near-unassailable lead with only seven rounds remaining in the campaign, Tay was content for them to remain eight points clear of their second-placed opponents.
"I'm definitely relieved," he said. "I think the most important thing is that we didn't allow them [Albirex] to close the gap on us.
"It was a bit tense but, at the end of the day, the fact that we equalised clearly showed how much the boys wanted to get a result. I think that was good.
"Overall, 3-3 is probably a fair result as both teams played attacking football. I'm surprised Albirex played very well and really managed to penetrate our defence; in the last three games I watched them play they were playing exhibition football."
The ex-Singapore international did however feel the frequent changes in the fixture schedule has caused a problem not only for Tampines, but all the S.League clubs.
"The changes in the schedule has definitely made things very difficult to all the S.League coaches," Tay added.
"We were preparing to play them [Albirex] on September 4 but then it was shifted two weeks earlier. Our first-choice keeper [Andre Martins] couldn't recover in time.
"That affected our preparations and it's probably the same across the board for every team.
"It's difficult to have a two-week break and then play three games in nine days, and then have another two-week break."
Although disappointed his side were ultimately not able to reduce Tampines' lead, Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama believes his players deserved credit for their display and refused to blame Hara for his costly error.
"I'm not happy [with the result] but I'm satisfied because our players had a very good performance," he said. "We followed our philosophy of football and I also respect Tampines as they did not play defensive football.
"It [Hara's mistake] was an accident. Our players have good concentration but I think it was just an accident; he was unlucky.
"In other games, Hara saved us [from conceding] many goals so I cannot blame him for this one. Whenever we score a goal, I like to think it belongs to every players so likewise, our mistakes belong to all the players, not just Hara."
The former Urawa Red Diamonds defender also refused to thrown in the towel as he believes winning the title still remains a realistic aim for Albirex.
"There's no problem with seven games left," Sugiyama added. "I'm very happy we get to play Tampines one more time [in the final round].
"I hope the other teams will can help us take points off Tampines. Winning the title would mean we have been approaching our football in the right way this season.
"But I think we are playing the right kind of football. I like our players and I'm proud of my players.
"Tonight [Wednesday] we were two goals down against Tampines - no problem. We played very good football and it was a very good night."
Tampines still have a game in hand and will take on DPMM FC on Sunday at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
Image courtesy of Tampines Rovers FC (BP Chua)