A Khairul Amri winner settled a closely-fought game as the league leaders stretched their unbeaten streak to eight games
Tampines Rovers edged Albirex Niigata 2-1 in a feisty affair at the Jurong East Stadium on Friday evening to extend their lead to four points at the top of the 2013 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League.
The Stags enjoyed most of the possession in the opening stage of the game and could have easily been a goal up after just four minutes.
Striker Khairul Amri’s through ball found fellow Singapore international Aleksandar Duric through on goal. But the 43-year-old’s first effort was parried by Hara and his follow-up lob was cleared off the line - a big let off for the White Swans.
Koichi Sugiyama’s side did not allow the champions to have it their way and they nearly took the lead in the seventh minute.
Great work by Kazuki Sakamoto on the right of the Stags’ penalty area resulted in the striker dragging a shot agonizingly wide across the goal line.
But the real let-off – and a contender for the miss of the season – came in the 15th minute.
A shot by Amri in the box found an unmarked Sead Hadzibulic with the goal at his mercy. But the striker somehow missed the target from two yards, hitting the crossbar.
Nenad Bacina’s side finally got their breakthrough five minutes before the break. A corner found Amri who nodded the ball down for Hadzibulic to give Rovers the lead and make amends for his glaring miss earlier.
However, the Japanese side took just three minutes to respond. Great play by the home side on the left resulted in Bruno Suzukicastanheira firing an stunning shot past Rovers keeper Sasa Dreven.
While both sides were eager to show off their footballing prowess in the first half, the same could not be said of the second.
It became an increasingly feisty affair with both sides producing their fair share of nasty challenges rather than chances.
The Stags managed to restore their lead at the hour mark, when a goal-mouth scramble saw Amri bundle the ball past Hara.
But the celebration was muted as defender Seiji Kaneko was badly injured in the box and was replaced by Anaz Hadee.
Albirex piled on the pressure in search for the equalizer but struggled to break down a disciplined and resolute Rovers defence.Tampines hung on for all three points and extend their lead at the top to four points with a game in hand.