Football: Tampines return to SPL summit with resilient win over defending champions Albirex

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SINGAPORE – Tampines Rovers showed their title-winning credentials with a dogged display as they defeated defending Singapore Premier League champions Albirex Niigata 1-0 win at the Jurong East Stadium on Sunday.

The Stags, who repelled wave after wave of attack in the second half, returned to the top of the table, one point clear of second-placed Lion City Sailors and four ahead of Albirex, who have dropped to fourth but with a game in hand.

After a cagey start to proceedings, it did not take long for the visiting Stags to break the deadlock. The in-form Faris Ramli, who already has four league goals, turned provider with a looping cross to the back post in the 13th minute, which was headed home by the 1.89m-tall Boris Kopitovic.

Still reeling in shock from conceding their first goal of the season, Albirex were fortunate not to go two down minutes later when Tampines captain Yasir Hanapi flashed a left-footed shot narrowly wide.

Pressing for an equaliser, Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga made a bold change after the break. Forward Riku Fukashiro replaced midfielder Keito Hariya as attacker Seia Kunori dropped to a midfield role alongside captain Asahi Yokokawa in a 4-4-2 formation.

The tactical switch nearly paid dividends in the 53rd minute when left-back Sho Fuwa crashed a shot against the upright.

In a final throw of the dice in the 79th minute, Yoshinaga threw caution to the wind and sent another forward, Keito Komatsu, on for Fuwa – with six attackers on the pitch.

Despite Albirex’s all-or-nothing approach, Tampines held on resiliently to secure the win, much to the delight of their boisterous away support.


After leading Tampines to a top-three finish in the SPL thrice in the last four seasons, Lee might be getting close to a breakthrough in his fifth campaign.

The addition of centre-back Milos Zlatkovic and midfielder Shah Shahiran have plugged gaps in defence and allowed Lee to impose his brand of high-octane, attacking football.

With three clean sheets in five matches, just one less than they managed the whole of last season, Tampines looked much better defe...

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