News • October 29, 2016

RHB Singapore Cup Final: Stags In Way Of White Swans’ Supremacy


Written by: Ryan Low

2016 RHB Singapore Cup Final

Albirex Niigata (S) vs Tampines Rovers

(Saturday, 29 October, 8.00pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)

All-conquering Albirex Niigata (S) are aiming to complete a unique quadruple for season 2016, but will face a stern test in Tampines Rovers as the two sides face off in the RHB Singapore Cup final on Saturday night.

It has been a stunning year for the White Swans, having already collected the Charity Shield, retained The New Paper League Cup and won their first-ever Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League title.

Understandably they are going into this Cup final as favourites, but coach Naoki Naruo is refusing to write off the threat of Tampines.

Coincidentally both sides met ina Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League tie in mid-week, with Albirex at the wrong end of a 5-1 drubbing.

“Tampines have good individuals with speed and our defence was not solid that day, that’s why we conceded five goals,” warned Naruo. “They have the best squad in the S.League; that’s why we have to show our style of football and display our skill to win. We’ve to be on our best to beat them.”

Tampines counterpart Akbar Nawas refuses to look too much into that emphatic result though, with both sides choosing to rest a number of key players ahead of the Cup final.

For the Stags, Izzdin Shafiq and Shakir Hamzah had to be contented with coming off the bench, while key man Jermaine Pennant was left out of the matchday squad altogether.

Meanwhile for Albirex, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba and Hiroyoshi Kamata came on as second-half substitutes, while first-choice goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa and top scorer Atsushi Kawata stayed on the bench throughout.

“To see this kind of performance and scoreline is great, but it’s definitely not by any means an indication of Saturday’s game,” said Akbar. “It will be a totally different game from this.

“Nonetheless I’m glad that at least we managed to tune the players up for the final. I needed to give minutes to Hafiz (Sujad) who was suspended for the last game and players like Afiq (Yunos) and Shahdan (Sulaiman) who just came back from injury.”

The Stags have been ravaged by off-the-pitch issues lately, but the players remained professional to string together a decent three-game winning run to end the S.League season on a high – pleasing their coach in the process.

“The off-the-field conditions aren’t great; let’s not lie about it,” admitted Akbar. “I’ve played the game and I know how it feels; definitely it will hang around (in the players’ mind) a bit. I really have to give credit to them for playing professionally in the last two to three games.”

The Singapore Cup is the Stags’ final chance of silverware this season and they could win the competition for a fourth time. The previous three triumphs came in 2002, 2004 and 2006, while they came up short in the 2007, 2010 and 2012 finals.

“It’s been 10 years since we won it, which is a long time,” quipped Akbar. “To win the Cup will be the icing on the cake for me.

“For us to finish second in the league, and just one point behind Albirex, reach the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup and semifinals of the League Cup, have been good achievements.

“But the most massive one must be beating two Philippines teams [Global FC and Ceres La Salle] en route to the Singapore Cup final, which wasn’t easy at all. So kudos to the players for the good season and hopefully we win on Saturday to cap it off.”

Suspension: Jufri Taha (Tampines Rovers)

Albirex Niigata (S) – WWWLL

26/10/16  Albirex Niigata 1-5 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

20/10/16  Home United 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)

14/10/16  Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Hougang United (S.League)

30/09/16  Warriors FC 2-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)

22/09/16  Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang International FC (S.League)

Tampines Rovers – DLWWW

26/10/16  Albirex Niigata (S) 1-5 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

22/10/16  Tampines Rovers 2-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

15/10/16  Garena Young Lions 1-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

01/10/16  Tampines Rovers 0-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)

21/09/16  Tampines Rovers 0-0 Bengaluru FC (AFC Cup)