Singapore Premier League • February 28, 2014

White Swans Hand Okuyama First S.League Victory

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Written by: Khalis Rifhan

Harimau Muda’s dismal record against Albirex Niigata (S) in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League continued as they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at Jurong East Stadium on Thursday night.

With this result, Albirex has won four out of their last five encounter in the league while the other match ended in a 1-1 draw.

The first half saw Razip Ismail’s side holding out strongly amid continuous assault from the White Swans. But the visitors’ resilience finally broke apart in the second half as captain Itsuki Yamada, Kazuki Sakamoto and Kazuya Okazaki grabbed a goal each to seal coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s first win in the league.

Nine minutes after halftime, Kento Nagasaki latched onto Kosuke Matsuda’s long ball into the penalty box, and released the ball to Yamada who blasted it to the bottom corner for the match opener.

Despite the sheer dominance by Okuyama’s charges, Harimau managed to conjure up attacks of their own. However most of their attacks ended up in frustrations, leading to the Malaysian side to try their luck from distance.

The lack of ammunition to their attackers were also not surprising as central midfielders Irfan Zakaria and Afiq Fazail were completely shut out by Albirex’s duo, Koki Akasaka and Matsuda.

Earlier in the match, midfielder Shahrul Igwan was presented with an opportunity but his attempt from the edge of the box lacked conviction and it did not cause any trouble for the White Swans goalkeeper Kazuki Kishigami.

Harimau only had two days of recovery having played their opening match against Tanjong Pagar on Monday and signs of weariness began to show in the latter stages of the match. Although Harimau lost that match, they displayed a much better performance compared to their latest defeat against the title aspirants.

Taking advantage of their opponents’ fatigue, Albirex surged forward in numbers and were duly rewarded with the second goal after the hour mark.

Nagasaki was once again involved in the build-up, lifting the ball over the defence down the middle for Keisuke Ota who stood strong in the face of challenges from Abdullah Suleiman and Syawal Nordin.

Ota then laid the ball onto Sakamoto’s patch and the 24 year old placed the ball beyond Ramdhan’s flailing arms and to the bottom right hand corner in the 68th minute.

There was no way back for Razip and his boys eight minutes later as Yamada turned provider, squaring the ball to the middle of the box and Okazaki side-footed the ball past the hapless Ramdhan.

With the S.League giving way to the international break next week, Harimau Muda’s next match will be on 12 March against Warriors at Choa Chu Kang Stadium while Albirex will be hosted by Hougang United on the same day.