News • July 27, 2016
The New Paper League Cup 2016: White Swans Thrash Stags To Reach Second Straight Final
Written by: Ryan Low
Holders Albirex Niigata (S) are through to The New Paper League Cup final after an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Tampines Rovers at the Jurong East Stadium on Tuesday night.
In what was expected to be a close game between the current top two teams of the S.League, the semi-final tie turned out to be a lop-sided affair. Atsushi Kawata stole the limelight with a hat-trick, before Tatsuro Inui came off the bench to complete the rout.
The White Swans dominated the entire first half, but had to wait until the 32nd minute to break the deadlock. Masaya Jitozono’s deep free kick picked out Kawata inside the area and the latter wasted little time in nodding home the opener past Tampines goalkeeper Joey Sim.
Tampines did well to bounce back early in the second half and almost scored on two occasions.
First, Billy Mehmet saw his shot denied at point-blank range after latching on to Jordan Webb’s chipped pass, then Noh Rahman thrashed inches wide from the edge of the box.
The Stags paid the price for not being clinical enough as Albirex duly doubled their lead on 67 minutes. With his opposing defenders backing off, Kawata took the opportunity to lash home a swerving shot from 30 yards out that had Sim beaten all hands down.
The 24-year-old rounded off his hat-trick six minutes later as he rose well in the area to head home Jitozono’s inswinging cross from the right.
Substitute Inui plunged the final dagger into Tampines’ hearts in the 87th minute, as he expertly took down Jitozono’s lofted ball inside the box before volleying in off the bar.
The result killed off Tampines’ dream of winning a domestic Treble, but Albirex are still on course to sweep all three trophies.
Albirex Niigata (S) head coach Naoki Naruo: “The players did well tonight; Kawata scored a hat-trick and showed very good performance. I’ve been telling him that he need to be the top scorer and the team mates are helping him to score.
“We want to win the Cup, but this is football. We’re not sure of the result yet, but right now our team motivation is very good.”
Tampines Rovers head coach Akbar Nawas: “If Billy had scored that chance, the motivation, mood and minds of the players will be different. This defeat is slightly harsh on us and we’re missing many national team players, but let’s not take anything away from Albirex.
“They’re definitely the favourites to win the trophy. They defend and attack as a team; they work very hard in transition. My team didn’t do well enough to stop the gaps and the ball from coming through.
“Nonetheless, I’m happy that the youngsters stepped up in this tournament and it’s been a good learning experience for them. Last year, we played a full team but did not even get out of the group stage.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata (Tomoki Menda 54’), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Kazuki Mine, Naofumi Tanaka (C), Shuto Inaba, Masaya Jitozono (Tadaaki Yazawa 89’), Kento Nagasaki, Atsushi Kawata (Tatsuro Inui 77’), Rui Kumada
Tampines Rovers: Joey Sim (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Mustafic Fahrudin (C) (Shafie Muliantoh 77’), Irwan Shah, Noh Rahman, Fabian Kwok, Gautam Selvamany (Haiqal Sulaiman 60’), Jordan Webb, Saifullah Akbar, Billy Mehmet