Singapore Cup • September 26, 2018

Murofushi leads stirring Albirex comeback against Home in Singapore Cup semi


Captain Marvel scored twice as his side came back thrice to stay on track for a fourth straight title

Albirex players celebrate with Adam Swandi after his equaliser.

SINGAPORE, 26 SEP 2018 – In the absence of key players Kenya Takahashi and Shuhei Hoshino, Captain Wataru Murofushi delivered a virtuoso performance for Albirex Niigata FC (S) in a 3-2 comeback win over Home United FC in the first leg of the RHB Singapore Cup semi-final tie at Jurong East Stadium on Wednesday night.

Home had led 2-1 at half-time with Hafiz Nor’s early strike and Shuhei Sasahara’s own goal cancelling out Adam Swandi’s leveller for Albirex.

However, the White Swans rallied in the second half with Murofushi netting a scorcher and a penalty to turn the tables around and take a one-goal lead going into next Wednesday’s second leg at Bishan Stadium.

The result meant the Japanese side extended their unbeaten home run to an incredible 40 matches, having last suffered defeat there in November 2015.

With marauding full-back Takahashi and chief forward Hoshino unavailable due to suspension, Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinga redeployed Riku Moriyasu at left-back and sent 1.9m defender Shun Kumagai upfront as the target man.

Kaishu Yamazaki filled in for Kumagai at the back in his first appearance since coming off injured in a 2-1 Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) win over Hougang United FC in early July.

It was his mistake that led to Home opening the scoring after just two minutes. The 21-year-old failed to get rid of Abdil Qaiyyim’s long ball and Hafiz stole in to play a one-two with Shahril Ishak before smashing in his ninth goal in all competitions.

That goal stung Albirex into action and they equalised just 10 minutes later.

Taku Morinaga rode two challenges on the left before producing a low cross for Adam, who swiveled and fired a crisp left-footed finish into the bottom right corner for his second goal in as many games.

The White Swans were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession though and paid the price for another defensive error to go 2-1 down in 36 minutes.

Moriyasu dawdled on the ball in his own area and was robbed of it by Iqram Rifqi, who skipped past two challenges on the left byline and saw his low cross inadvertently diverted in by Sasahara past a bemused Nozawa.

Albirex could have equalised again just before half time, but Kumagai’s header off Moriyasu’s left-wing cross rattled the bar.

They would restore parity for a second time on 57 minutes. After a superb driving run into the attacking third, Murofushi exchanged passes with Kumagai before snapping a stunning drive into the top left corner past a rooted Kenji Rusydi.

It got better on 75 minutes when Ryujiro Yamanaka’s shot was adjudged to have been handled by Faritz Hameed on the line, paving the way for Murofushi to score his 10th goal of the season from the spot.

Their night would end on a slightly sour note as Morinaga was harshly given a straight red on the stroke of full time for a foul on Faritz.

Albirex held on to secure a slender one-goal win on the night, with all to play for in the second leg next Wednesday, 3 October.

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “We were playing the AFC Cup ASEAN champions, which is a very strong team. The goals we conceded in the first half were mistakes. Kaishu was playing in his first game for almost three months so he made an unacceptable mistake for the first goal.

“We still played the same formation (despite missing two players) and we believe in what we’re doing. Apart from Nozawa, Kumagai is the only player in this team that had played in J1 League with Venforet Kofu and even scored a goal as a forward there, so it’s not that he has no experience playing upfront.

“We just need to concentrate on recovery and fight together as a team for the second leg.”

Home Assistant Coach Saswadimata Dasuki: “We thought that we could be the first team to beat Albirex this year, but we lacked concentration in the final quarter of the game. We were quite comfortable at 2-1 and the game plan was to get another goal. But they got space in the middle to score a second and the subsequent penalty could have been a ball to hand.

“I hope we get a better referee for the second leg because it’s a big game for both teams. We didn’t play Song (Ui-young) today because we’re still running for second place in the SPL and there’s a big game this weekend against Tampines, where we need at least a draw. We don’t want him to get injured and lose him for that game.”

Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuhei Sasahara, Kaishu Yamazaki, Riku Moriyasu, Ryujiro Yamanaka, Daiki Asaoka, Wataru Murofushi (C), Adam Swandi, Taku Morinaga, Shun Kumagai.
Unused subs: Taiki Itsukaichi (GK),  Shahul Rayyan (GK), Ibuki Inoue, Kazuki Sumiishi, Kodai Sumikawa, Ryuji Yamauchi, Kazuya Kojima.

Home: Kenji Rusydi (GK), Faritz Hameed, Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq (C), Hafiz Nor, M. Anumanthan (Amy Recha 80’), Isaka Cernak (Aqhari Abdullah 86’), Iqram Rifqi (Fazli Ayob 87’), Shahril Ishak.
Unused subs: Eko Pradana (GK), Shahrin Saberin, Song Ui-young, Arshad Shamim.