News • September 10, 2016
RHB Singapore Cup 2016: White Swans Scrape Past Tigers In Tight First-Leg Encounter
Written by: Nevin Gabriel Khoo
Albirex Niigata hold the advantage after defeating Balestier Khalsa 1-0 in the first-leg of the RHB Singapore Cup 2016 semi-final at Jurong East Stadium on Friday night
Even though the hosts failed to display their trademark free flowing attacking football, they still managed to break down the Tigers, thanks to captain Shuto Inaba’s wonder strike a minute before the interval.
Both sides took time to settle into the game and Albirex had their first sight of goal on 19 minutes when a swerving ball into the box found Rui Kumada, whose thumping header crashed off the crossbar much to the frustration of home crowd.
Kumada’s effort seemed to jolt the visitors up from their slumber and they managed to carved out a decent opportunity a few minutes later.
A long ball over the Albirex defence found Miroslav Krištić in an one-on-one situation with custodian Eita Kanagawa, but the Croatian scuffed his shot wide of the mark to the disbelief of his coach Marko Kraljevic.
The White Swans continued to struggle to break down the Tigers’ compact defence and their attempts on goal were reduced to long-range efforts from outside the box.
Tatsuro Inui’s freekick in the 36th minute looked promising, but Tigers custodian Zaiful Nizam, making his first start since returning from injury, was on hand to save the Japanese’s shot at full stretch.
It looked that it would take a moment of magic for either teams to score and it was Albirex who were able to conjure up such an act in the 44th minute.
After Balestier failed to properly clear Kento Nagasaki’s free-kick, the ball fell to Inaba more than 20-yards out and he unleashed a venomous shot that found the top corner and left Zaiful rooted to the spot.
The second-half proved to be as scrappy as the first and the White Swans hung on for the crucial victory ahead of the return fixture at Toa Payoh Stadium.
Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naruo: “It was a very difficult game for us and we did not create many chances for ourselves tonight so I think Balestier played a very solid game against us tonight.”
“I think that shot the Inaba’s shot was vital given Balestier’s solid defence tonight and it was very good because it won us the game tonight.”
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic: “Nobody can stop that shot. It was lucky that the ball fell to him but the finishing was excellent.”
“I’m very disappointed that we did not take our chances. You cannot get any better chances than to go one on one with the keeper. Sometimes football is like that. I’m happy with the performance but I’m disappointed by the result.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Eita Kasagawa (GK), Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shitora, Rui Kumada (Masaya Jitozono 55’), Naofumi Tanaka, Tomoki Menda, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Tatsuro Inui (Daichi Ishiyama 84’), Hiroyoshi Kamata (Mikiya Yamada 78’), Kazuki Mine
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK,C), Fadli Kamis, Shah Hirul, Nurullah Hussein, Niko Tokic (Hazzuwan Halim 46’), Miroslav Krištić, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fadhil Noh (Smajovic Sadin 72’), Syafiq Zainal, Ahmad Syahir, Ho Wai Loon (Daniel Tan 70’)