The Japanese defender was once again on hand to grab a late strike to ensure that Tampines Rovers maintained their lead at the top of the S.League table
Tampines Rovers had to work hard to preserve their position at the top of the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League table when they grabbed a late winner to down Hougang United 3-2 on Thursday night.
Just as they had done when they won at Pasir Gudang against Harimau Muda in their most recent away game, they needed a late goal from Japanese defender, Kunihiro Yamashita, to seal the three points.
Hougang had taken the lead in the 24th minute when stand-in keeper Ridhuan Barudin was beaten by Liam Shotton, whose initial shot had been fumbled, but was bundled home by the tall striker, who was making his first start for some time.
Shotton and Jerome Baker shared the striking responsibilities on this occasion and a re-shuffled Hougang line-up looked more than capable of making life difficult for the S.League champions and current leaders.
Tampines, however, who had their new Portuguese goalkeeper sidelined with a fractured right arm, were not going to let Hougang dictate terms and drew level in the 42nd minute from a superbly-struck Shaiful Esah free-kick.
Three minutes later the Stags had taken the lead.
Khairul Amri who came on for Ahmed Fahmie, not long after Hougang had taken the lead, showed some grit to win an aerial challenge with Nurhilmi Jasni to head home at the far post from a cleverly-floated corner by Shahdan Sulaiman.
A clash of heads in that goalmouth challenge left Amri with a head wound that needed to be bandaged throughout the second half, but Nurhilmi was replaced at half-time after receiving treatment.
Hougang came storming back in the second-half and equalised in the 65th minute when big defender, Igor Cerina, directed the ball back from the far post and past Ridhuan, who had been unable to claim Azhar Sairudin’s free-kick as it sailed beyond him.
Cerina angled his shot across the keeper and into the far corner kick of the net, in off the post.
It took Tampines until the 82nd minute to find the lead again and with it their winner.
A ball played from a corner to Amri was fed to the near-post, then, via Aleksandar Duric, back to Amri once more. The ball played in was met by Yamashita, whose faintest of touches fooled Fadhil Salim and made it 3-2 to the Stags.In stoppage-time a saving tackle on Baker by Jufri Taha, as the Hougang striker was about to converge on Fazli Jaffar’s ball played in from a corner kick, preserved three precious points for the Tampines team, who gained some revenge for their RHB Singapore Cup loss to the Cheetahs on the same ground back in May.