News • July 10, 2017

The New Paper League Cup 2017: White Swans Prove Too Strong For Warriors


Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Holders Albirex Niigata (S) moved top of The New Paper League Cup Group A after a convincing 2-0 win over Warriors FC at Jurong East Stadium on Monday night, courtesy of first-half strikes from Shoichiro Sakamoto and Kento Nagasaki.

With Home United and Hougang United sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the other game played on the same day, the White Swans leapfrogged Warriors into first spot with four points after two games.

Albirex put out the same side that were held 0-0 by Hougang United in their last game, with Tsubasa Sano and Ryota Nakai leading the frontline.

There were meanwhile six changes for Razif Onn’s Warriors as Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak were reinstated in the first XI while 19-year-old Mukundan Maran was handed his first senior start between the sticks.

It was the White Swans who got off to a flying start as they took the lead just three minutes in when Shoichiro Sakamoto ghosted in unmarked at the far post to send a firm header past Mukundan.

Chances were at a premium thereafter, with the next notable one coming in the 22nd minute when Tanaka nodded just wide off Kento Nagasaki’s corner at the near post.

Two minutes later, Sano robbed the ball off Mukundan but his first touch was too heavy as the ball rolled out for a goalkick, much to the relief of the latter.

Warriors had their first real shot of the game after 29 minutes, but forward Andrei-Cosmin Ciolacu elected to go for the shot and fired well over from 20 yards.

Baihakki came close six minutes later but somehow volleyed wide after Yosuke Nozawa had punched a Shaiful Esah freekick straight into his path.

They were made to rue that miss as Nagasaki doubled the lead for the White Swans four minutes before half-time.

After Mukundan was adjudged to have handled the ball just outside the box, the 27-year-old proceeded to curl home an exquisite freekick over the Warriors wall and into the top corner.

Albirex could have pulled further away just after the hour mark, but Sano flashed one wide of Mukundan’s right-hand post in the 62nd minute.

The visitors did have their moments too, with Ridhuan Muhammad’s effort blocked by Takuya Akiyama in the 66th minute before Ciolacu glanced a header inches wide three minutes later.

Nakai and Nagasaki had opportunities to put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages of the game but it mattered little as Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s charges picked up their first win out of four games in all competitions.

Warriors – who now have three points in two games – will look to return to winning ways when they face Hougang at Hougang Stadium, while Albirex are up against Home with both matches to be played on Thursday.

Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “I’m happy with the win today and I’m sure the players are happy too. Winning games is important to us as it keeps the confidence going and keep the football flowing.

“While we had some dangerous moments in the game, I’m pleased with the clean sheet because Warriors have good attacking players in their team. When our form is not so good, we need to get a win and we will take any win that come our way.”

Warriors FC Head Coach Razif Onn: “We knew how Albirex would play, with those long balls behind the defence. We failed to convert our chances we created although the second-half performance was better.

“We started to press Albirex but we failed to convert our chances we created. If we can play like how we did in the second-half, we can hopefully stand a chance against Hougang.

Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shoichiro Sakamoto, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Koki Sato (Rui Kumada 73’), Ryota Nakai (Ryuya Motoda 90’), Tsubasa Sano

Warriors FC: Mukundan Maran (GK), Ang Zhi Wei, Kento Fukuda, Baihakki Khaizan, Ho Wai Loon, Ridhuan Muhammad (Hafiz Nor 85’), Shaiful Esah, Firdaus Kasman (Syaqir Sulaiman 88’), Jordan Webb, Shahril Ishak (C) (Fadhil Noh 78’), Andrei-Cosmin Ciolacu