News • July 18, 2017

The New Paper League Cup 2017: Red-Hot Sano Fires Albirex Into Final



Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Holders Albirex Niigata (S) marched on into The New Paper League Cup Final after cruising to a impressive 4-0 victory over Geylang International at Jurong East Stadium on Tuesday night.

A brace from Tsubasa Sano coupled with a goal each from Takuya Akiyama and Ryota Nakai were enough for the White Swans to book a third successive League Cup Final appearance, their fourth in the history of the competition.

The match got off to a tentative start with the first chance of note coming only after 25 minutes with Kento Nagasaki’s first-time volley from the edge of the box crashing off the bar.

Anders Aplin came close for the Eagles at the other end with a weak shot which trickled inches wide but there was no denying the White Swans three minutes later.

Rising highest to meet Nagasaki’s corner delivery, Akiyama powered home a bullet header past Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari to make it 1-0 to Albirex.

Albirex continued to be on top and could have doubled their lead in the 33rd minute, but Tsubasa Sano was denied by Syazwan at point-blank with Shoichiro Sakamoto stabbing over from the ensuing corner.

Victor Coto almost levelled matters for the Eagles four minutes before half-time but his shot on the turn was pushed over the bar by Yosuke Nozawa.

Clear chances were at a premium after the restart with Noor Ariff’s effort from outside the box in the 55th minute which sailed well over being the noteworthy one.

Nakai and Naofumi Tanaka had attempts parried by Syazwan and go wide in the space of two minutes, and it was a warning sign Geylang failed to heed as Sano tapped in from close range to extend Albirex’s lead in the 79th minute.

Sano then got his second of the night just two minutes later, sneaking in to head home a right-wing cross which went in off the post past a rooted Syazwan.

The scoring was complete two minutes from time when Nakai sprang the offside trap and rounded an onrushing Syazwan before slotting into an empty net.

Albirex will now face Warriors FC in the final on Friday after the latter overcame Brunei DPMM 5-1 in the other semi-final clash.

Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “I agree that the game was not easy as it seemed to be and it was a tough game today.

“Geylang has not lost in their last past five games and are on a strong run; they started the game strongly and we had to be careful in first-half and not let them overrun us, which explained our cautious play. In the second-half, we played better and our better fitness showed. I told the players to keep their shape and discipline for the 90 minutes so we do not commit unnecessary fouls during the game.”

“I’m not getting too excited for the Final even though we’ve beaten Warriors FC before, as they have a strong attacking line-up and we need to know how to defend against them.”

Geylang International Head Coach Noor Ali: “I wasn’t disappointed with the result because it’s not easy playing against Albirex who are top of the S.League and are defending champions of the League Cup.

“We played well in the first-half and did well to hold Albirex. We may not have caused many problems but we kept possession well and were caught on the break for the last three goals.

“We still have ten league games to go and I hope we can go up the table do well. I’m going to play Brunei DPMM and Albirex next, those are tough and a different ball game altogether but we will do our best.”

Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Ryuya Motoda 80’), Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Koki Sato (Rui Kumada 43’), Ryota Nakai, Tsubasa Sano (Shoma Kondo 90’)

Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Faritz Hameed, Yuki Ichikawa, Anders Aplin, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Safirul Sulaiman, Ricardo Sendra, Noor Ariff, Isa Halim (C) (Gabriel Quak 68’), Victor Coto (Shahfiq Ghani 52’), Amy Recha (Shawal Anuar 60’)