Singapore Premier League • March 11, 2014

Cheetahs to Dislodge White Swans Passing Game


Hougang United vs Albirex Niigata (S)

(March 12, Wednesday, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)

Written by: Khalis Rifhan

Hougang United started their new campaign with a draw and a win, while title hopefuls Albirex Niigata (S) slumped to an opening day defeat to Brunei DPMM before bouncing back with an impressive 3-0 win over Harimau Muda.

It will be a keenly contested match in the middle of the park as both teams relies heavily on their midfielders.

For the Cheetahs, their good form evolves around their new signings Shunsuke Nakatake and Geison Moura. Both players have anchored Hougang’s midfield with tenacity thus far.

Nakatake has one of the most accurate passes in the league (80% against Woodlands Wellington) and executed 25 challenges, 20 of which are successful, in the same match.

At the back, coach Amin Nasir can rely on the towering Durica Zuparic and Igor Cerina to hold the fort, and both have formed a solid partnership, keeping out opponents from venturing further into the final third.

Cerina grabbed the first goal in their 2-1 win over Tanjong Pagar while Zuparic came close on several occasions from set-pieces. But Cerina and Zuparic might not have the luxury to join in the attack in this match as they will be kept busy by the White Swans attacking duo, Kazuki Sakamoto and Kento Nagasaki.

As for coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama, his attacks are usually concentrated around the creative Kosuke Matsuda and the speedy Keisuke Ota, the latter with a liking for trickery and nifty footworks on the right flank.

The Cheetahs will need to be wary of Okuyama’s passing game (542 passes and 80% accuracy against Harimau) and not leave any gap open for their opponent to exploit.

Albirex dominated their match against Harimau (58% ball possession), and had 11 shots on goal, the highest in Round 2 of matches. The White Swans also had 108 attacks in that match, mostly concentrated on the left flank (30 attacks) and the middle (38 attacks).

Key Man to Watch

Hougang United: Fadhil Salim

With an Instat Index score of 127, Fadhil was one of Hougang’s top performance against Tanjong Pagar. The goalkeeper was instrumental in keeping their opponents at bay with his top notch saves.

Fadhil’s distribution is also worth mentioning as 82% of his goal-kicks reaches its intended target and the shot-stopper is commanding when going up for the aerial balls during corner kicks and set-pieces.

Albirex Niigata (S) : Kazuki Sakamoto

The striker came out as the second best player in InStat Index for Round Two, with a score of 185 which included a 67% shooting accuracy against Harimau Muda

Sakamoto is not only a poacher but also constantly drops back to assist his team in gaining back possession from the opponents. He also loves to play one-touch-football with his midfielders to disorientate their markers in the process.

With an eye on goal as well as a tendency to try his luck from distance, expect Sakamoto to cause a few headaches to the Cheetahs’ defence.

Hougang United – WDLWW

27/2/14    Tanjong Pagar United 1-2 Hougang United

22/2/14    Hougang United 2-2 Woodlands Wellington

5/11/13        Courts Young Lions 2-0 Hougang United

29/10/13          Hougang United 4-1 Geylang International

24/10/13          Hougang United 4-1 Harimau Muda

Albirex Niigata (S) – WLLWW

27/2/14    Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Harimau Muda

22/2/14    Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Brunei DPMM

4/11/13        Home United 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S)

1/11/13        Tampines Rovers 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)

23/10/13          Albirex Niigata (S) 3-1 Woodlands Wellington

Head to Head (S.League)

24/5/13    Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Hougang United

8/3/13        Hougang United 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)

20/9/12    Albirex Niigata (S) 2-3 Hougang United

13/4/12    Hougang United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S)

24/10/11    Hougang United 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)

7/7/11        Albirex Niigata (S) 5-1 Hougang United

18/4/2011    Hougang United 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S)