Singapore Premier League • August 2, 2014

Albirex Keep Title Hopes Alive With Warriors Triumph


Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Albirex Niigata (S) moved to third in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League standings after a comprehensive 3-1 win over fellow title chasers Warriors FC in a televised match at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.

Nicholas Velez fired Warriors in front after just four minutes but Keisuke Ota would level things in the 14th minute.

Kazuki Sakamoto then put the White Swans in the lead for the first time in the match in the 42nd minute before substitute Kento Nagasaki struck three minutes from the end to wrap up all three points for Albirex.

The opening exchanges belonged to Alex Weaver’s side as they took advantage of a sloppy Albirex defence to open the scoring.

Receiving a quick pass from Kevin McCann, Velez raced through on goal and coolly lifted the ball over Kenjiro Ogino who was caught off his line.

Warriors could have gone two up moments later but Hafiz Rahim just failed to get a touch on Velez’s low cross as the chance went begging.

After a slow start, the White Swans settled down and tested Hassan Sunny for the first time in the match on nine minutes as he pulled off a superb reflex save to deny Kazuya Okazaki from close range.

However, the 30-year-old Hassan was finally beaten as Albirex equalised through Ota who latched onto a pass from deep before chipping the ball over an onrushing Hassan and into an empty net.

The designated home side came close on numerous occasions thereafter, Miroslav Pejic firing narrowly over the bar before Amin Rossady’s rasping low drive was pushed away by Ogino.

In almost similar fashion to their equaliser, Albirex then made it 2-1 just before the break as  Sakamoto fired past Hassan after he was slipped through by Okazaki.

The Jurong East-based club continued from where they left off in the second-half and Okazaki almost scored with a thumping header off Ota’s cross at the far post but it went straight into the gloves of Hassan instead.

Hassan proved to be a busy man between the sticks for Warriors and the former Tampines Rovers man had to thwart Sakamoto with his foot shortly after the hour mark after the latter was again set up by Okazaki.

All hopes of a Warriors comeback was however extinguished in the 87th minute when Nagasaki exchanged passes with Okazaki on the edge of the box and slotted the ball underneath Hassan to make sure of the win.

With this result, Albirex are just two points behind joint leaders Brunei DPMM and Tampines on 36 points. Warriors on the other hand, dropped a spot to fifth and could be overtaken by Hougang United who face DPMM on Sunday.