SINGAPORE – Reo Nishiguchi and Tanjong Pagar United’s hot start to the 2022 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season continued on Saturday (May 28) with a 4-2 victory over Tampines Rovers.
The Japanese forward had a hand in three of his side’s four goals at the Jurong East Stadium, scoring twice and notching an assist.
The win puts Tanjong Pagar third in the eight-team SPL table after 11 matches, level on points with Albirex Niigata although the Japanese side have played a game less.
Tampines, in fourth, have 15 points from 10 matches.
The Jaguars have continued to go from strength to strength despite being tipped by many to be cellar dwellers in the SPL this season.
And their rise has been typified by 24-year-old Nishiguchi. With his latest brace, he has now scored 11 goals, surpassing his best tally of nine goals in the SPL which came last season as the Jaguars finished fifth.
Nishiguchi was eager to stamp his mark on proceedings from kick-off and took just five minutes to find the back of the net when he curled an effort from just inside the box past goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
In the 21st, he turned provider for his fourth assist of the season, as he set up Rusyaidi Salime, who poked home Tanjong Pagar’s second.
Just a minute later, Tampines halved the deficit when Firdaus Kasman turned in from close range after the Jaguars failed to clear from a corner.
Nishiguchi then got his second of the evening in the 32nd minute when he pounced on a loose ball in the box and applied the finish. Zehrudin Mehmedovic gave the Stags a lifeline in the 36th minute only for Shodai Nishikawa to restore the Jaguars’ two-goal lead just two minutes later.
The goals tapered of in the second half but the Jaguars held on to secure their first win over Tampines since their return to the SPL in 2020.
Tampines, who finished fourth last season and qualified for the Asian Football Confederation Cup to be held later this month, have now suffered back-to-back defeats.
In the evening’s other fixture at the Hougang Stadium, Balestier Khalsa were defeated 3-1 by Hougang United.
The SPL will resume on June 18 following the international break.
Ten 10 matches into the season, Tampines are still in search of the elusive clean sheet, having conceded 23 goals in this period.
Once again, their young defence was not able to cope with the opposition’s senior players. Ryaan Sanizal, 19, Irfan Najeeb, 22, and Amirul Haikal, 22, all started as part of the Stags’ backline but were torn apart by the Jaguars’ front two of Nishikawa, 28, and Nishiguchi.
Tampines are the only team, along with developmental squad Young Lions, who have yet to keep a clean sheet in 2022 although the latter have played only seven matches so far. Their last shutout came in the second-last match of the 2021 season, when they held Albirex to a 0-0 draw last September.
Tampines coach Gavin Lee has placed an emphasis on positive attacking football, but if he wants his side to qualify for continental competition again this season, defence needs to become the priority.