Veteran Singapore defender Daniel Bennett, who is plying his trade for the Tampines Rovers in the ongoing S.League season, lashed out at referee Sukhbir Singh after the latter disallowed a spot kick that Stags' new-signing Ivan Dzoni scored in their team's 2-1 defeat to Albirex Niigata in the season-opening Great Eastern Community Shield on Sunday.
Last season's runners-up Tampines clinched an early lead through winger Ryutaro Megumi's goal in the 36th minute and went into the break with a one-goal lead as well. In the 59th minute of the game, Bennett won a penalty for the Stags after which Dzoni sent one past the Albirex goalkeeper but the referee wanted a retake. However, the former Croatia U17 captain was not able to slot it inside in the second attempt, much to the disappointment of the Tampines fans, who had come in large numbers to the National Stadium.
Also, Yasir Hanapi was sent off after receiving a second yellow card soon after, following which Albirex kept pressing Tampines, who had been reduced to 10 men. The defending champions' substitute striker Soichiro Sakamoto then added two goals in the span of seven minutes (75 and 82) to give his team the lead. Two more Stags stars - Madhu Mohana and Ismadi Mukhtar - were sent off as well as Tampines struggled to find the equaliser and eventually conceded the shield to their familiar foes.
Fans, over 15,000 of them, at the National Stadium booed the match officials at the end of the final whistle and Bennett mirrored their opinion by saying that the disallowed second goal changed the fortunes of his team.
"We were in the driver's seat and the referee robbed us of a goal. If the (scored) penalty was allowed, that would have changed the game. It is about the players on the field, not about the referee. You can see what the fans thought about it," Bennett said, as quoted by The New Paper.
While coach Juergen Raab revealed that he was not able to understand the referee's decision about the penalty kick, defender Mustafic Fahruddin said his team was frustrated at the decision and that the referee "spoilt the game".
"It is a pity. The fans came out in numbers, the football was good but, tomorrow, people will read the papers and see three red cards. They will think it was a dirty game, but it was not. I am sorry to say, but the referee spoilt the game. We can accept the defeat, but the way we lost is hard to take," Mustafic added.