SINGAPORE - The gap at the summit of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League has been slashed to just one point.
League leaders Tampines Rovers' 1-0 win over Harimau Muda B earlier this month has been overturned by the league authorities.
Stags midfielder Ruzaini Zainal (above in photo), a June transfer-window signing from Warriors FC, was found to be ineligible for the match in Pasir Gudang on July 3. He was supposed to have served an automatic one-match suspension for picking up four yellow cards this season.
He had picked up three bookings prior to his switch to Tampines, with whom he received a yellow card on his league debut against his former club.
The match will now be awarded as a 3-0 win to Razip Ismail's side.
While the change in result won't have any effect on the league positions, it means Tampines' wings have been clipped just when it looked like they were running away with the lead.
Stags coach Tay Peng Kee said: "It was an administrative mistake.
"The next two games are going to be very crucial.
"Suddenly, the four-point lead is now one with two games in hand, which are of no use to me as they're not three points.
"It depends a lot on tonight's game (against Home United) and the game against Hougang (on July 18) which are now very crucial."
This is the second incident this season involving ineligible players after the Courts Young Lions had their first four results of the season overturned for fielding full-time National Servicemen who had not been cleared to play.
While Tampines have the opportunity to bounce back immediately with a home game against opponents who have not beaten them in their last seven games across 90 minutes, Tay believes Home United won't be easy pickings.
Tay said: "Records don't say anything, but we are ready. "This is one of the key games as far as we're concerned because Home are one of the stronger teams in the league.
"They're not playing well, but the team that they have are a very strong team."
Even though they are now seven points adrift of Tampines, Home's Indra Sahdan has not given up hope of lifting the S-League title.
The veteran striker said: "At the moment, we are just going to concentrate on our remaining games.
"The team will take every match like a cup final and hopefully Tampines will drop some points in their remaining games.
"The squad have always been positive. We will just be doing our very best till the end of the season.
"Hopefully this year will be our year to win the S-League title."