News • September 14, 2016
RHB Singapore Cup 2016: Super-Sub Kumada Sends White Swans Through To Final
Written by: Ryan Low
Rui Kumada came off the bench to help Albirex Niigata (S) edge Balestier Khalsa 1-0 in the RHB Singapore Cup semi-final second-leg at Toa Payoh Stadium on Tuesday night and win 2-0 on aggregate.
Balestier held high hopes of overturning the tie after losing the first leg by just a one-goal margin, but failed to get going against a defensively solid Albirex side.
Instead it was the White Swans who dominated most of the first 45 minutes and almost scored on a few occasions.
Balestier had goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam to thank for as the Singapore no.3 pulled off a couple of good saves from Tatsuro Inui – one of which was a spectacular leap to tip over the latter’s goal bound free-kick.
The Tigers had a good chance midway through the first half, with Albirex stand-in custodian Eita Kasagawa’s clearance came off Fadhil Noh before landing just wide of goal.
The 2014 Cup champions were a transformed side after the break though, with Niko Tokic lashing a volley just over while strike partner Miroslav Kristic fired a 20-yard drive straight into the arms of Kasagawa.
Sensing an opportunity to level the tie, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic threw on impact substitutes Hazzuwan Halim and Jamil Ali thereafter but the duo struggled to make an impact.
There was one further opportunity in the 80th minute, but Tokic could only head wide Ahmad Syahir’s deep cross from the left.
They were made to pay for their wastefulness two minutes later as Albirex broke the deadlock on the night and sealed the tie on aggregate.
Substitute Kumada – who was only on the field for 21 minutes – outjumped Zaiful in the box to nod home Naofumi Tanaka’s teasing cross from the left and spark raucous celebrations from the White Swans box.
Naoki Naruo’s side eventually held on to progress into the Cup final, where they will play Tampines Rovers at the Jalan Besar Stadium on October 29.
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic: “We did better than the previous game (first leg), kept possession so much and did not allow them to play but did not give the final pass in attack. We were not able to get in behind them because there was not much creativity.
“Last 20 minutes I gambled a bit and changed the formation to 4-3-3 and start going on the attack, but we were not able to get the goal because their defence were much better than in the last game. They really stopped us. I’m happy with performance but not the result.
“Now we have five league games left to play. There’s nothing much to fight for but we still need to work hard. The players need to work hard for next year’s contracts, that’s part of their jobs.”
Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naruo: “It was a really difficult game, so I’m happy to keep a clean sheet and win this game. Balestier’s attacks were very simple yet dangerous; one mistake could cost us the game so I’m happy that our defenders kept their concentration.
“We’re in the final now, but we have to focus on one game at a time. Our next game is against Geylang (International) in the league and we want to win as many games as we can.”
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Shah Hirul (Danial Farhan Tan 78’), Nurullah Hussein, Niko Tokic, Miroslav Krištić, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fadhil Noh (Jamil Ali 68’), Ahmad Syahir, Ho Wai Loon, Sadin Smajovic (Hazzuwan Halim 60’)
Albirex Niigata (S): Eita Kasagawa (GK), Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba (C), Tomoki Menda, Kazuki Mine, Kento Nagasaki, Tatsuro Inui (Rui Kumada 61’), Atsushi Kawata, Daichi Ishiyama (Hiroyoshi Kamata 76’)