Singapore Premier League • February 18, 2023
Albirex and Hougang set for maiden Community Shield clash
SINGAPORE, 18 FEBRUARY 2023 – Reigning Singapore Premier League (SPL) winners Albirex Niigata (S) and Singapore Cup champions Hougang United are aiming to start the 2023 season with a bang this Sunday at the Jalan Besar Stadium (JBS).
Both teams will be playing in the 15th edition of the SPL Community Shield, the season’s traditional curtain raiser, with it being the second time that Hougang is featuring in the Shield and the sixth for Albirex.
2023 AIA Community Shield | 19 February, 6pm | LIVE on SPL Facebook and YouTube, Singtel Ch 112, StarHub Ch HS2 and MeWatch
Both Albirex and Hougang enjoyed historic seasons last year. While Albirex won their fifth SPL title and became the second-most successful club in the league, Hougang won their first ever major trophy.
They crossed paths six times in 2022, with four matches ending in draws and a total of 27 goals scored. Their last encounter was a memorable one for the Cheetahs, who edged the White Swans 4-2 in the second leg of the Singapore Cup semi-finals to win 7-5 on aggregate.
Hougang midfielder Kristijan Krajcek is the only scorer from that match who remains at the club. The Croatian scored a hat trick – the first player to do so in a Singapore Cup final – the last time Hougang played at JBS and will hope to power them to victory once again on Sunday.
Kristijan Krajcek celebrates after scoring his third goal in the Singapore Cup finals.
The Albirex side on Sunday will look very different – of the players that featured, only Tadanari Lee, Keito Hariya and Nicky Melvin Singh have been retained for the upcoming season.
Lee has a penchant for scoring against the Cheetahs, netting in four of the six encounters last year. The forward also scored the first goal of the 2022 season, netting from the spot in last year’s Community Shield against the Lion City Sailors.
Tadanari Lee scores from the penalty spot in the 2022 SPL Community Shield.
READ ALSO: SPL Transfer Centre
Both teams have new recruits and Sunday’s encounter will give fans an opportunity to catch some of them in action.
Among the new Albirex signings are Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny – capped 103 times by Singapore – who has also joined from the Sailors, Asahi Yokokawa and Masaya Watanabe – the latter boasts European experience, having featured for German fifth-tier side Turu Dusseldorf last season.
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Hougang have also brought in two Japanese players in defenders Kazuma Takayama – who has J.League experience – and Naoki Kuriyama, who has made a total of 161 appearances in J2 and J3. They have also signed some experienced local players in 2020 SPL Player of the Year Gabriel Quak and last season’s Golden Glove winner Zaiful Nizam.
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MEN AT THE HELM
Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s no-nonsense leadership and tactical nous helped the White Swans stage a late surge to pip the Sailors for their fifth title.
In doing so, Yoshinaga clinched his third league triumph and became the second-most successful coach in league history behind Richard Bok. The Japanese could become the first-ever coach to win three Shields on Sunday, having triumphed with Albirex in 2017 and 2018.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga celebrates with the SPL trophy.
Hougang’s assistant coach last season, Firdaus Kassim, will step up to helm the Cheetahs for the 2023 season after Clement Teo left for Cambodian Premier League side Boeung Ket FC. This will be Firdaus’ first full season as the main man in charge, after spells as assistant coach at Thai side Chainat and the Singapore National Team.
Firdaus Kassim led Hougang United to victory in the Singapore Cup.
- Shahdan Sulaiman is currently sidelined with an injury suffered during preseason and focusing on rehabilitation after a successful operation.
Tickets for the SPL Community Shield are currently on sale and can be purchased via the FAS website (www.fas.org.sg/tickets).