Singapore Premier League • July 9, 2018

Sweet 15 for Albirex and Hoshino as Warriors fall


The leaders notched their 15th straight win of the season to march on towards the title

Shuhei Hoshino celebrates after scoring his 15th goal of the season.

SINGAPORE, 8 JULY 2018 – Albirex Niigata FC (S) continued their relentless march towards the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) title after a 2-0 win over Warriors FC at Jurong East Stadium on Sunday evening.

Wataru Murofushi and Shuhei Hoshino’s goals clinched the White Swans’ 15th straight win, although it could have been more in a fixture which the White Swans thoroughly dominated.

It was the visitors who threatened first though as Poh Yi Feng spotted Fadhil Noh’s run into the box and sent him within scoring distance, but the latter rushed his shot and hit the ball over.

But that was as good as it got for Warriors, especially after their game-plan hit a snag with Ignatius Ang picking up an injury during the warm up and an unfit Jonathan Behe started in his place instead.

Settling into the game, Albirex stoked the ball around in search of the opener but found a wall in Warriors goalkeeper Mukundan Maran.

The goalkeeper first pulled out a top-drawer save in the 19th minute from Shuhei Sasahara’s point-blank header, though the whistle had gone for an Albirex infringement in the box.

Two minutes later, Mukundan was at his best and worst. He first denied Adam Swandi from close range after the forward was picked out by Sasahara, but contrived to fumble the ball and Hoshino nearly capitalised.

In the 26th minute, the 20-year-old continued to underline his potential with a stupendous stop, reacting quickly to prevent Hoshino’s shot from going in after the striker met Ryujiro Yamanaka’s pass.

But just moments later, his inexperienced showed again as he fumbled a cross and left a gaping goal for Adam, requiring Ismadi Mukhtar to bail him out with a goal-line clearance.

However, the goalkeeper could not be blamed when Albirex finally made a breakthrough just before half-time.

His team-mates backed off as Murofushi ran at goal – never a good idea to do against someone who can strike from range, which was promptly what happened as the Albirex captain picked his spot and curled the ball sweetly into the bottom left corner.

It could have been 2-0 in the 50th minute, with Sasahara left free to meet Riku Moriyasu’s corner but he was unable to find the target.

Kenya Takahashi then came close next with his free-kicks, one flying just over goal while the other drew a fine save from Mukundan.

The hosts finally grabbed a deserved second goal in the 72nd minute and it came after a sweet one-two between Taku Morinaga and Hoshino, which the latter calmly side-footed into the bottom right corner first time.

There was still time for another goal and Albirex came on several occasions, only for their final touch to let them down.

The last piece of noteworthy action came on 89 minutes when Takahashi went for it again from a 20-yard set-piece, but Mukundan stood in his way to keep the scoreline respectable.

Albirex’s next task will be to see off challengers Tampines Rovers FC at home next Saturday, 14 July. Warriors will go up against Geylang International FC the next day, at Bedok Stadium.

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “After the previous match against Hougang, we had a serious injury to a key player, so we had to make some changes to the players’ positions. Some players were not used to their new roles, that’s why our first half didn’t go as planned. In the second half, we made some adjustments and we played better. But we will continue to make improvements so that they can play better in the next match.

“We have never thought about winning every match, we are just taking it one game at a time and it’s important the players take them seriously.

“If I ever get sick of winning, I will resign. As professional coaches and footballers, they have to give their best to win every match. Football is harsh, it is a harsh reality. Even if you win every match, there is no guarantee you will still have a job. Everybody must give their best, that’s how we find our next jobs. We cannot be satisfied with anything.”

Warriors Head Coach Mirko Grabovac: “In the first half, we had some problems in midfield and Albirex got some chances, leading us to concede at the last second in the first half. We played better in the second half and I can’t really fault my players, they worked very hard.

“Congratulations to Albirex, but we had two problems before the game. Ignatius (Ang) got injured and it was a big miss for us as we played Jonathan Behe, who was also injured. If you are not at 100 per cent against Albirex, playing for 60 minutes is very hard.

“(About Behe starting), we discussed about it when Ignatius got injured and because Behe scored many goals for us, even when he is not 100 per cent fit, we played him. If you want to do something against Albirex, you need a goal and Behe scored 70 per cent of our goals.

“We want to go for fourth in the table and try and win the Singapore Cup now. We must be ready, all our players must be fit and ready. If we want to do something in the Cup, we must make less mistakes. But at least today they showed fighting spirit.”

Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Shuhei Sasahara, Daiki Asaoka, Riku Moriyasu, Wataru Murofushi (C), Shuhei Hoshino, Adam Swandi, Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Taku Morinaga (Ryuji Yamauchi 90’+1), Ryujiro Yamanaka.
Unused subs: Shahul Rayyan (GK), Taiki Itsukaichi (GK), Kazuki Sumishi, Shun Kamagai, Kodai Sumikawa, Ryutaro Shibanoki.

Warriors: Mukundan Maran (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar (Tajeli Salamat 50’), Delwinder Singh, Kento Fukuda (C), Emmeric Ong, Fadhil Noh, Daniel Shafiq, Poh Yi Feng, Nur Luqman (Sahil Suhaimi 46’), Ho Wai Loon, Jonathan Behe (Suria Prakash 61’).
Unused subs: Hyrulnizam Juma’at (GK), Sahil Suhaimi, Hafiz Sulaiman, Firdaus Kasman.