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Singapore Premier League: Tampines lose ground in title chase with shock loss

A 2-3 defeat by Balestier ends their unbeaten start to the season, as Albirex Niigata take advantage with 5-0 rout of Hougang

Balestier Khalsa's Daniel Goh (left) and Ryoya Taniguchi celebrate their second goal against Tampines Rovers in their Singapore Premier League match. (PHOTO: SPL/Facebook)
Balestier Khalsa's Daniel Goh (left) and Ryoya Taniguchi celebrate their second goal against Tampines Rovers in their Singapore Premier League match. (PHOTO: SPL/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — After going to entire first round of Singapore Premier League (SPL) matches unbeaten, Tampines Rovers began the second round on the wrong foot, slumping a shock 2-3 defeat by Balestier Khalsa at Our Tampines Hub on Friday (5 May).

Gavin Lee's men had emerged as one of the three title contenders this season together with Albirex Niigata (Singapore) and Lion City Sailors, and have been playing some attractive winning football led by veteran national forward Faris Ramli and last season's top scorer Boris Kopitovic.

However, they went a goal behind in the 33rd minute, after losing possession outside their penalty area. The ball fell to Balestier midfielder Alen Kozar, who made an inch-perfect pass to Daniel Goh to slam home from a tight angle.

Goh then turned provider for the Tigers' second goal in the 50th minute, robbing possession off Tampines' Glenn Kweh in the box, before crossing low for Ryoya Taniguchi to tap in from close range.

Stung by the two-goal deficit, Tampines redoubled their efforts to salvage the situation, and got a lifeline in the 65th minute when Goh fouled Joel Chew in the penalty area. Kopitovic saw his initial spot-kick saved by Hairul Syahan, but referee order the penalty to be retaken due to encroachment Balestier players, and the Montenegrin made no mistake with his second attempt.

However, Taniguchi sealed the upset win for Balestier in the fifth minute of stoppage time as he sleekly finished off a counter-attack move. Kopitovic scored another penalty in the dying moments to complete the scoreline.

Albirex extends lead with 5-0 rout of Hougang

Tampines' defeat meant Albirex could extend their lead atop the SPL table to four points if they were able to defeat bottom side Hougang United on Saturday. And they duly did, thrashing the struggling Cheetahs 5-0 at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Goals from Asahi Yokokawa (14th and 33rd minute), Koki Kawachi (26th) and Keito Komatsu (50th and 93rd) gave the White Swans a comfortable victory, and piled the pressure on new Hougang coach Marko Kraljevic in just his second match in charge.

Third-placed Sailors also kept pace with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday.

The hosts took the lead in the 10th minute as forward Yushi Yamaya ran through the Sailors' defence before laying the ball up for an onrushing Mohamed Iqbal, who evaded two defenders before slotting home.

However, the Sailors' Belgian import Maxime Lestienne proved why he is the frontrunner of Player of the Year this season, as he conjured two stunning free-kicks in the 69th and 89th minutes to snatch victory for the 2021 champions.

In the final match of the weekend, DPMM FC defeated Tanjong Pagar United 2-1 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday. Goals from Andrey Voronkov (34th) and Muhammad Hakeme Yazid (83rd) sealed the tie for the Brunei side, as Marin Mudrazija (67th) got the goal for the Jaguars.

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