Albirex Niigata (S) took full advantage of Tampines Rovers’ slip-up to restore their lead at the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League table to four points after beating Balestier Khalsa 1-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on a Friday.

While the White Swans were unable to put on their usual display of slick and entertaining football because the Tigers sat deep in their own half, Naoki Nauro’s charges still dominated the entire match.

The visitors took the lead in the 14th minute when Naofumi Tanaka’s cut back into the box found Rui Kumada, who held off Hanafi Salleh and slotted the ball past Zaiful Nizam as the goalkeeper came rushing out.

Zaiful had to be replaced by Naqiuddin Nodin soon after as the custodian failed to recover from the collision with Kumada.
The White Swans sought to extend their lead but failed to create any meaningful opportunities. It was not until the 31st minute that they registered their next shot on target, but Atsushi Kawata could only direct his volley over the top left corner.
The White Swans picked up where they had left off after the break and continued pushing for a second goal to increase their lead.

However, the Tigers had their disciplined defence, led by Sheikh Abdul Hadi and Naqiuddin’s performance in between the sticks to thank for keeping the score at 0-1. 

Frustrated at his side’s inability to break Balestier’s tight knitted defence, Naruo threw on target man Kazuki Mine in the 62nd minute in hopes that a tactical change would make their pressure pay off.
While Mine’s height and strength allowed Albirex to play more direct football, this ultimately proved to be futile as the White Swans failed to add to their tally.
Instead, the Tigers almost snatched a point right at the death when a diving header from Sheikh forced Albirex goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa into a brilliant fingertip save with the loose ball bouncing off his upright. 

“We have to improve on the ideas up front and work on the accuracy of our shooters and crossers,” said Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naru0.

“It is difficult playing Albirex on an artificial pitch … but the team worked very hard from the beginning to the end and we almost scored at the end of the game,” Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic.


S-LEAGUE 2016 Current Standings

No Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Albirex Niigata (S) 16 12 2 2 38 12 +26 38
2 Tampines Rovers 16 10 4 2 34 19 +15 34
3 Brunei DPMM 16 6 4 6 30 28 +2 22
4 Home United 16 6 4 6 29 28 +1 22
5 Hougang United 16 6 4 6 22 24 -2 22
6 Geylang International 16 5 6 5 22 22 0 21
7 Warriors 16 4 6 6 23 24 -1 18
8 Balestier Khalsa 16 2 5 9 15 29 -14 11
9 Garena Young Lions 16 2 3 11 14 41 -27 9
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