Singapore Premier League • March 1, 2023
2023 Singapore Premier League Matchweek 1: Roundup
Rio Sakuma celebrates after scoring against Young Lions, 28 February 2023
SINGAPORE, 1 MARCH 2023 – The 2023 Singapore Premier League season got off to a smashing start with defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) picking up from where they left off with a straightforward victory over Young Lions, while title hopefuls Lion City Sailors and Hougang United similarly picked up victories over Tanjong Pagar United and Balestier Khalsa respectively. There is a surprise leader at the top though, as Geylang International followed up a gusty draw against Tampines Rovers by defeating Young Lions in a mid-week game. We recap all the action below…
New club, same old Tanaka
Lion City Sailors 3-1 Tanjong Pagar United | Bishan Stadium | 24 February 2023
Hafiz Nor 11’, Kodai Tanaka 89’, 90’+4 | Shahrin Saberin 90’+2
After Hafiz clinically finished off Maxime Lestienne’s low cross early on, the Sailors then survived a Mirko Sugic penalty miss before finally doubling their advantage late into the game with Lestienne teeing up Tanaka to net his first Sailors goal. Shahrin pulled one back for the Jaguars through a thumping header, but Tanaka sealed a winning return to Bishan for the Sailors by tapping home another Lestienne cross deep into injury time.
Maxime Lestienne against the Jaguars, 24 February 2023
- The Sailors have now won their season-opening games for the past two campaigns, after failing to do so in 2020 and 2021.
- Lestienne bagged three assists in a single SPL match for the fourth time – he now has 26 assists in 26 league appearances.
- Hafiz has now scored at least a goal in the last 11 SPL seasons – three out of his last four league goals have come against Tanjong Pagar.
- Tanaka has scored in each of his last eight appearances in all competitions – a run that extends back to October 2022 when he netted a hat-trick for Albirex in a 4-2 win against his current club.
- Shahrin scored his first Tanjong Pagar goal – that was also his first goal since November 2020 when he netted for Geylang against his current side.
- Tanjong Pagar’s Kenji Rusydi made his first SPL appearance since December 2020 when he started the Jaguars’ 4-2 loss to Young Lions.
- Sailors’ Idzham Eszuan became the third-youngest ever player to feature in the SPL at 16 years 10 days old, while teammate Jonan Tan was the 10th at 16 years and 242 days.
Sailors: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Christopher van Huizen, Bill Mamadou, Lionel Tan, Nur Adam Abdullah, Hariss Harun (C) (Arshad Shamim 88’), Hami Syahin (Jonan Tan 81’), Diego Lopes (Abdul Rasaq Akeem 56’), Hafiz Nor (Idzham Eszuan 88’), Maxime Lestienne (Danish Qayyum 88’), Kodai Tanaka.
Unused subs: Adib Hakim (GK), Rusyaidi Salime, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Ihsan Hadi.
Tanjong Pagar: Kenji Rusydi (GK), Tajeli Salamat, Shahrin Saberin, Shakir Hamzah (C), Pedro Dias (Raihan Rahman 33’), Faizal Roslan, Azim Akbar, Mirko Sugic, Blake Ricciuto, Naqiuddin Eunos (Khairul Amri 88’), Marin Mudražija (Syukri Bashir 41’).
Unused subs: Fashah Iskandar (GK), Naufal Ilham, Fathullah Rahmat, Khairul Hairie, Zulfadhmi Suzliman.
White Swans display usual class
Albirex Niigata 3-0 Young Lions | Jurong East Stadium | 25 February 2023
Shuto Komaki 34’, Asahi Yokokawa 52’, Koki Kawachi 88’
Albirex followed up their Community Shield win with another three-goal victory, with Komaki setting them on the way as he coolly converted the rebound after Keisei Ogawa’s long-range shot was parried into his path. Captain Yokokawa then fired home an unerring finish into the bottom right corner after some great combination play through the middle, before Kawachi hooked home at the far post late on to complete a resounding opening victory for the champions.
- Albirex are now unbeaten in their last eight home matches at Jurong East.
- Albirex have now won their last 16 SPL matches against Young Lions.
- Albirex’s Hassan Sunny has started the season with two straight clean sheets, including the Community Shield.
Albirex: Hassan Sunny (GK), Ryo Takahashi (Keito Hariya 81’), Koki Kawachi, Shunsaku Kishimoto, Sho Fuwa, Asahi Yokokawa (C), Kaisei Ogawa, Shuto Komaki (Riku Fukashiro 46’), Nicky Melvin Singh (Tadanari Lee 46’), Shodai Yokoyama (Masaya Watanabe 88’), Seia Kunori.
Unused subs: Hyrulnizam Juma’at (GK), Yoshihiko Kobayashi (GK), Shakthi Vinayagavijayan, Junki Yoshimura, Kenji Austin.
Young Lions: Aizil Yazid (GK), Danial Crichton, Jun Kobayashi, Ilhan Noor, Aqil Yazid, Harhys Stewart (C) , Faritz Hameed (C) (Iman Hakim 83’), Amir Syafiz (Syafi Nur Hilman 83’), Harith Kanadi, Andrew Aw (Haziq Kamarudin 76’), Fairuz Fazli (Elijah Lim 65’), Jordan Emaviwe (Ryan Praveen 76’).
Unused subs: Wayne Chew (GK), Danial Iliya (GK), Jacob Mahler, Syafi’ie Redzuan.
Koki Kawachi (right) celebrates with Tadanari Lee after scoring Albirex’s third goal, 25 February 2023
Points shared in Eastern Derby
Tampines Rovers 1-1 Geylang International | Our Tampines Hub | 25 February 2023
Faris Ramli 16′ | Vincent Bezecourt 2‘
The goals arrived early in this one with Bezecourt slamming Geylang ahead through a sizzling right-footed volley from eight yards out, before Tampines swiftly equalised with Faris latching on to Kyoga Nakamura’s defence-splitting pass to finish past Hafiz Ahmad with his usual poise in front of goal. Both sides then spurned chances in the second half and had to settle for a draw.
- Tampines are now unbeaten in their last nine SPL matches since a 4-2 loss to Albirex in August 2022.
- Bezecourt has now scored in Geylang’s season-opening games in both 2022 and 2023.
- Faris scored on his club debut for Tampines.
- Geylang’s Iqbal Hussain made his first SPL appearance since October 2021 when he came on as a second-half substitute for Balestier in a 4-1 loss to Sailors.
Tampines: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Irfan Najeeb, Ryaan Sanizal (Shuya Yamashita 63’), Miloš Zlatković, Glenn Kweh (Amirul Haikal 68’), Kyoga Nakamura, Shah Shahiran, Yasir Hanapi (C), Faris Ramli, Taufik Suparno (Joel Chew 63’), Boris Kopitovic.
Unused subs: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Danish Irfan, Rezza Rezky, Saifullah Akbar, Firdaus Kasman, Ong Yu En.
Geylang: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Akmal Azman (Muhd Noor Ariff 61’), Rio Sakuma, Amirul Adli, Huzaifah Aziz, Joshua Pereira (C), Takahiro Tezuka, Vincent Bezecourt, Yushi Yamaya, Iqbal Hussain (Gareth Low 90′), Naufal Azman (Danish Haziq 73′).
Unused subs: Ridhwan Fukri (GK), Azri Suhaili, Haikal Sukri, Sham Syed Mohamed, Syafiq Sani, Ikhsanuddin Sharil.
Iqbal Hussain against Tampines Rovers, 25 February 2023
Cheetahs edge thriller
Balestier Khalsa 2-3 Hougang United | Jalan Besar | 26 February 2023
Daniel Goh 59′, Ryoya Taniguchi 74′ | Kristijan Krajcek 22′, Kazuma Takayama 50′, Amy Recha 87′
Krajcek hooked home a bouncing volley off Nazrul Nazari’s cross, before Takayama nodded in Zulfahmi Arifin’s inswinging corner as Hougang looked good with a two-goal lead, but Balestier came storming back with Goh rounding Zaiful Nizam to score before Taniguchi’s thumping shot from the edge of the box struck the underside of the bar and went in to level it up at 2-2. However, the Cheetahs had the final laugh with Amy at the right place at the right time to tap in Krajcek’s low cross for the match-winner.
- Hougang won a season-opening game for the first time since 2020.
- Krajcek has scored five goals in his last four appearances in all competitions.
- Goh scored for a fifth straight SPL match – before this run, he only scored four goals in 47 league appearances.
- Goh has eight goals and two assists in his last 11 matches in all competitions.
Balestier: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Darren Teh, Madhu Mohana, Emmeric Ong, Fudhil I’yadh (Iqram Rifqi 54’), Alen Kozar, Ryoya Taniguchi, Ho Wai Loon (C), Daniel Goh, Masahiro Sugita, Shuhei Hoshino
Unused subs: Suffian Abdullah (GK), Syabil Hisham, Amer Hakeem, Puvan Raj, Syukri Noorhaizam, Aidil Johari, Ignatius Ang, Kian Jared Ghadessy.
Hougang: Zaiful Nizam (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Naoki Kuriyama, Kazuma Takayama, Irwan Shah, Zulfahmi Arifin (C), Ajay Robson, Kristijan Krajcek, Amy Recha, Brian Ferreira (Gabriel Quak 61’), Sahil Suhaimi.
Unused subs: Zainol Gulam (GK), Anders Aplin, Amir Zalani, Rauf Sanizal, Raimi Ishraq, Hariysh Krishnakumar, Iryan Fandi.
Kristijan Krajcek celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Balestier, 26 February 2023
Eagles come from behind to win
Geylang International 4-2 Young Lions | Our Tampines Hub | 28 February 2023
Yushi Yamaya pen. 25′, Naufal Azman 56′, Rio Sakuma 64′, 70′ | Harith Kanadi 7′, Jun Kobayashi 52′
After Yamaya cancelled out Harith’s deflected opener from the spot, Young Lions retook the lead with Kobayashi’s header off Harith’s corner adjudged to have crossed the line. However, the Eagles restored parity with Naufal sneaking into the box to convert Yamaya’s cross before Sakuma nodded home Takahiro Tezuka’s corner to put them ahead. Sakuma was at it again as he benefitted from Amirul Adli’s knock-on to complete a brace, before Geylang survived Akmal Azman’s sending off to seal the win.
- Geylang have lost just twice out of their last 19 SPL matches.
- Young Lions have conceded in each of their last 65 outings – extending back to September 2019.
- Harith netted his first-ever professional goal.
- Naufal netted just his third-ever SPL strike – it was his first goal since September 2018 when he scored for Young Lions in a 2-1 win over Hougang.
- Sakuma scored his first-ever SPL brace – prior to this, his only league goal came in November 2020 in Albirex’s 4-0 win over Hougang.
Geylang: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Akmal Azman, Rio Sakuma, Amirul Adli, Huzaifah Aziz, Joshua Pereira (C), Takahiro Tezuka, Vincent Bezecourt, Yushi Yamaya, Iqbal Hussain (Shahfiq Ghani 62′), Naufal Azman.
Unused subs: Ridhwan Fikri (GK), Gareth Low, Muhd Noor Ariff, Azri Suhaili, Haikal Sukri, Sham Syed Mohamed, Syafiq Sani, Danish Haziq.
Young Lions: Aizil Yazid (GK), Raoul Suhaimi, Jun Kobayashi, Ilhan Noor, Aqil Yazid (Fairuz Fazli 70’), Jared Gallagher (C), Amir Syafiz, Harith Kanadi, Iman Hakim (Harhys Stewart 46’), Andrew Aw (Haziq Kamarudin 75’), Elijah Lim (Ryan Praveen 83’).
Unused subs: Wayne Chew (GK), Danial Iliya (GK), Danial Crichton, Jacob Mahler, Syafi Nur Hilman.
Red Card: Akmal Azman (Geylang) 80′
Rio Sakuma and his teammates celebrate after their victory against Young Lions, 28 February 2023