Singapore Premier League • April 3, 2014
Jaguars to Get Campaign Back on Track
Albirex Niigata (S) vs Tanjong Pagar United
(April 4, Friday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Tanjong Pagar United will be gunning for three points to get their season back on track when they face Albirex Niigata (S) at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Jaguars snapped their three-match losing streak with a narrow 3-2 win over Courts Young Lions at the same venue less than a week ago.
Monsef Zerka struck a hat-trick to sink the developmental side to open his account for the season and he will definitely be looking for more goals to come.
Besieged with injury and suspension problems, it has forced coach Patrick Vallee to deploy midfielder Tengku Mushadad in central defence against the Young Lions. However, the former Balestier man put in a good shift alongside the fit-again Hafiz Osman despite being played out of position.
Skipper Hafiz led by example and put in an assured performance at the back, and he will be once again be expected to do the same to keep the Albirex attackers quiet, especially top-scorer Kazuki Sakamoto who has the ability to punish defences.
Masrezwan Masturi will return from suspension and provide Vallee with more options since the former’s versatility allows him to slot in various positions on the pitch.
On the other hand, the White Swans have been plagued by inconsistency so far this season and find themselves lying in eighth place on seven points after five matches.
They needed a stoppage time goal from Taiyo Nishida to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw against Woodlands Wellington in their last game and will be eager to return to winning ways here.
Under new coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama, the Albirex of 2014 have adopted a more direct approach going forward with the main aim of finding Sakamoto while being more attack-minded as opposed to the past few seasons.
Sakamoto has already netted three goals and he will be looking to add to his tally to help his side climb up the table. In midfield, Koki Akasaka is the man to watch for the White Swans and he will be pivotal in providing the link between attack and defence.
Key Men To Watch
Albirex Niigata (S): Koki Akasaka
Having featured in every Albirex game since the start of this season, Akasaka has been a key figure for his side.
Working tirelessly in midfield, the box-to-box player not only has a good range of passing but performs his defensive duties at the same time to shackle the opponents’ advances.
While he has yet to score, the 23-year-old has been heavily involved in the team’s attacking play and it should be a matter of time before he does so.
Tanjong Pagar United: Monsef Zerka
Zerka scored 17 goals in all competitions last year to help Tanjong Pagar to a sixth-placed finish and reach the RHB Singapore Cup Final, only to lose out to eventual winners Home United.
In the last game, the Jaguars marquee signing struck his first goals for the club this season with a clinical hat-trick against the Courts Young Lions and also displayed good hold-up play to bring his teammates into the game.
While it has taken five games for him to finally find the net, 2013 has proved that the Moroccan can and is able to score and he will be relied to deliver the goods again this season.
Albirex Niigata (S) – DWLWL
26/3/14 Woodlands Wellington 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
21/3/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier Khalsa
12/3/14 Hougang United 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
27/2/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Harimau Muda
22/2/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Brunei DPMM
Tanjong Pagar United – WLLLW
26/3/14 Courts Young Lions 2-3 Tanjong Pagar United
21/3/14 Tanjong Pagar United 0-1 Woodlands Wellington
13/3/14 Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Tanjong Pagar United
27/2/14 Tanjong Pagar United 1-2 Hougang United
24/2/14 Harimau Muda 1-2 Tanjong Pagar United
Head to Head (S.League)
24/9/13 Tanjong Pagar United 0-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
16/7/13 Tanjong Pagar United 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S)
2/4/13 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-1 Tanjong Pagar United
21/6/12 Tanjong Pagar United 0-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
17/2/12 Albirex Niigata (S) 4-1 Tanjong Pagar United
4/8/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Tanjong Pagar United
6/6/11 Tanjong Pagar United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
16/2/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 5-0 Tanjong Pagar United