Albirex Niigata S almost lost their perfect record but rallied back to seal a pulsating 4-3 win over Tampines Rovers in the Singapore Premier League on Sunday.
Daiki Asaoka ended Tampines Rovers FC’s resilience with a last-minute screamer from 25 yards out as Albirex Niigata (S) FC came out tops in a 4-3 thriller at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday night.
Ryujiro Yamanaka also scored a brace for the White Swans while providing an assist for Shuhei Hoshino. Fazrul Nawaz, Ryutaro Megumi and Zulfadhmi Suzliman responded in kind for the Tampines.
The White Swans drew first blood in the eighth minute, after Kenya Takahashi pounced onto a loose ball and found Yamanaka, who duly slotted home.
But Tampines refused to back down and instead proceeded to carve out several chances in the first half.
Fazrul was guilty of hitting the ball over from point-blank range in the 12th minute while Jordan Webb could only muster a weak attempt at Yohsuke Nozawa two minutes later, with Megumi the architect of both scoring opportunities.
The bar was also rocked in the 16th minute, after Asaoko missed a pass completely and allowed Fazrul with a free shot but the striker’s fierce strike did not beat the woodwork.
The Stags’ hard work finally paid off in the 24th minute, with Fazrul making amends for all his earlier misses.
Zulfadhmi headed Yasir Hanapi’s cross towards Megumi and the Japanese saw his header pushed away by Nozawa. However, Fazrul was on hand to hit home the rebound.
The striker should have scored again following more good work by Zulfadhmi as the winger picked him out in the 43rd minute, but the Singapore international could only head the ball over.
After the break, Albirex regained the lead immediately, with Yamanaka allowed to swing in a cross from the left and Hoshino connected with a thumping header.
There were further chances to increase the lead but both Yamanaka and Taku Morinaga failed to put away their chances, giving Tampines a way back into the game.
The Stags duly did so in the 64th minute, with Megumi timing his run to perfection to latch onto Fazrul’s pass before dispatching past Nozawa.
Alas, the visitors hit back instantly, with Yamanaka tucking away the rebound after Syazwan saved Hoshino’s initial shot to make it 3-2.
Once again, Tampines pegged them back in the 77th minute, this time through a beautiful curler by Zulfadhmi which dipped beyond the reach of Nozawa.
Megumi then thought he scored the winner when he cut in and drilled the ball into goal but it was chalked off as Fazrul was ruled to be offside and interfering with play.
The last goal of the game came in injury time, with Asaoka going for goal from range and a shocked Syazwan could only stand rooted as he watched the ball bulge the back of the net.
Tampines will face Geylang International FC next in the second Eastern Derby of the season at Bedok Stadium on 27 May while Albirex will return home to Jurong East Stadium to meet Balestier Khalsa FC on the same day.
Tampines Rovers FC Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “We have seen a high class football match and the first ten minutes I am not why we were too nervous we gave them all the possibilities to play. The way they scored the first goal was so easy but afterwards we came back. The team always came back so I must say I am really proud they delivered. It was strange that we scored the fourth goal and the linesman can explain to me how he could see from 50 metres that he could see the offside. No in the end, we lost the match and it was hard for the team.
Albirex Niigata (S) FC Head Coach Yoshinaga Kazuaki: “This is our third game in one week so I was actually very worried about our physical condition but I am happy that they won today’s match. I want to give credit to my players for running their hearts out, even though they were all tired. Adam is carrying a slight knee injury, but he will see a doctor this week and we decided not to risk him because he is a precious asset for Singapore football.
Tampines: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Madhu Mohana (Afiq Yunos 61’), Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Amirul Adli, Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Shah Shahiran 88’), Ryutaro Megumi, Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb, Shameer Aziq (Faizal Raffi 81’), Daniel Bennett, Yasir Hanapi
Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Riku Moriyasu, Shuhei Sasahara, Kaishu Yamazaki, Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Ryutaro Shibanoki 81’), Daiki Asaoka, Ryujiro Yamanaka (Kodai Sumikawa 90’), Wataru Murofushi (C), Taku Morinaga, Shuhei Hoshino