Tampines Rovers winger Megumi leaves Home United hopes in tatters
Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi ran the show at Bishan Stadium on Monday night as his brace helped Tampines Rovers defeat Home United 2-0 in the S.League.
The defeat means the Stags are now in the driving seat to finish second, and also paved the way for leaders Albirex Niigata (S) to virtually seal the title against Balestier Khalsa on Thursday night.
Due to their superior goal difference, another three points for the White Swans would mean they would not be caught unless there is an incredible sequence of results.
Home looked sluggish from the start, possibly due to their exertions from Friday night's 2-0 win over Balestier Khalsa.
Tampines looked sharper, having enjoyed more than a week's rest after a 3-2 win over Geylang International.
They opened the scoring on 13 minutes, despite forward Fazrul Nawaz limping off after just three minutes.
Megumi checked inside his marker before firing home a sizzling left-footed grounder past Hassan Sunny from the edge of the box.
Home tried to recover from the setback and could have levelled matters on 26 minutes. Irfan Fandi, deployed initially as a forward, went through on goal via Faris Ramli's pass, but contrived to fire wide when it seemed easier to hit on target.
The Protectors were lucky not to head into the break two goals down. Hafiz Sujad's right-footed drive came back off the post before Fazrul's replacement Ivan Dzoni was denied on the follow up by Hassan.
Aidil Sharin reacted at half-time by switching Irfan into defence, with Faris playing just behind Croatian front man Stipe Plazibat.
However, Home still struggled to get going and paid the price on 55 minutes.
Dzoni played a perfectly-weighted pass that took out two Tampines defenders, before Megumi strode onto the leather to fire a low right-footed shot beyond the reach of Hassan.
Tampines stood firm to repel the Home attacks, with the duo of Faris and Plazibat marked totally out of the game, before they were substituted.
Jurgen Raab's side narrow the gap between them and Albirex to six points, while Home's title chances are all but over as they are 10 points behind, with a game in hand.
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Aqhari Abdullah, Abdil Qaiyyim Hariss Harun, Sufianto Salleh (Amiruldin Asraf 57'), Shamil Sharif, M. Anumanthan, Adam Swandi, Faris Ramli (Marijan Suto 77'), Stipe Plazibat (Iqram Rifqi 83'), Irfan Fandi
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Madhu Mohana, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Daniel Bennett, Shannon Stephen, Son Yong Chan, Shahdan Sulaiman, Irwan Shah (Khairul Amri 71'), Ryutaro Megumi (Zulfadhmi Suzliman 86'), Fazrul Nawaz (Ivan Dzoni 6'), Hafiz Sujad
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT