Singapore Premier League • February 20, 2023

Albirex ease past Hougang to clinch fourth SPL Community Shield


New Albirex custodian Hassan Sunny lifts the 2023 AIA Community Shield, 19 February 2023


SINGAPORE, 20 FEBRUARY 2023 – Albirex Niigata (S) FC clinched their fourth SPL Community Shield after easing past Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.


In front of a 3,078-strong crowd, Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s charges ran out 3-0 winners courtesy of second-half goals from Seia Kunori, Shodai Yokoyama and Riku Fukashiro.


The match also saw the debut of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), with the technology proving decisive as two of the White Swans’ goals came after VAR intervention.


Before kick-off, there was a cheque presentation for S$15,000 by Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Acting President, Mr Bernard Tan to Dr John Tan, Executive Director for CARE Singapore. The amount, which comprised donations from the FAS and Hougang United, will aid CARE Singapore in their mission to help vulnerable young people find direction, hope and success.


Dr John Tan of CARE Singapore presents FAS Acting President Mr Bernard Tan with a token of appreciation, 19 February 2023


When proceedings got underway, Hougang made the better start of the two teams. They had three chances to take the lead in the first 20 minutes, but forward Hazzuwan Halim and fellow newcomer Brian Ferreira failed to make the most of their opportunities.


Hougang United forward Hazzuwan Halim reacts after he missing a chance in the first half, 19 February 2023


Hougang then had a big penalty shout in the 43rd minute when Albirex defender Koki Kawachi was alleged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area while sliding in to stop Ajay Robson from cutting into the Albirex goal.


The referee did not award a penalty as he deemed there was no handball offence, and the VAR verified that the ball had hit Kawachi’s back thereby confirming the referee’s on-field decision.


The game came to life in the second half when Hougang defender Naoki Kuriyama challenged Albirex winger Riku Fukashiro for the ball inside the penalty area. The referee had initially allowed play to carry on, however  an on-field review was recommended by the VAR.


Referee Jansen Foo reviews the challenge between Naoki Kuriyama and Albirex winger Riku Fukashiro, 19 February 2023


Upon review, it was deemed that Kuriyama was late with his challenge and did not make any contact with the ball. This prevented Fukashiro from taking up an advantageous position after playing the ball.


Referee Jansen Foo subsequently awarded Albirex a penalty, which was calmly dispatched by Seia Kunori to score the first goal of the 2023 season.


Seia Kunoroi celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot, 19 February 2023


Smelling blood, Albirex pushed on in search for a second goal. Midfielder Kaisei Ogawa was afforded too much space on the edge of the penalty area and curled a shot towards the Hougang goal. Cheetah’s custodian Zaiful Nizam parried the shot right into the path of Shodai Yokoyama, who reacted quickest to convert the rebound.


Although the goal was initially ruled out for offside, VAR correctly identified that Yokoyama was onside when Ogawa played the ball, thus the initial call was overruled and Albirex was awarded the goal.


The icing on the cake came five minutes later through Riku Fukashiro. The winger guided the ball into the bottom left corner after expertly controlling a  a loose clearance and evading the pressure from Amy Recha.


Albirex winger Riku Fukashiro celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal, 19 February 2023


Albirex custodian Hassan Sunny was rarely threatened but was alert to parry substitute Sahil Suhaimi’s effort over the bar as Hougang searched for a consolation goal.


Cheetahs’ Head Coach Firdaus Kassim reflected post-match: “We need to be more calm, more disciplined and more patient especially after we concede. It is good that it happened in today’s game and we just have to learn from this.”


Hougang United Head Coach Firdaus Kassim, 19 February 2023


His counterpart, Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga, said: “This team is different from last season’s and it would be fun for everyone to watch and judge them. We do have some players who are injured, so I expect the team to be more competitive when everyone is fit.”


Kazuaki Yoshinaga lifts the SPL Community Shield – his third following previous wins in 2017 and 2018, 19 February 2023


The 28th season of the SPL will kick off this weekend on 24 February.


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