News • September 23, 2016
Unstoppable White Swans Continue Steadfast March Towards Maiden Title
Written by: Koh Yizhe
It was by no means pretty but Albirex Niigata (S) continued their march towards a first-ever S.League title with a 1-0 victory against a stubborn Geylang International side.
Captain Atsushi Shirota scored the only goal of the game in the 75th minute just when Geylang was growing in confidence to ensure that they collected three precious points. The league leaders now have 47 points from 20 matches, seven points ahead of Tampines Rovers with four games remaining.
For the Eagles, they sit on fifth with 28 points from 21 games, their chances of finishing third out of their hands.
Both teams started the match with plenty of energy with lots of pressing and running off the ball. Geylang made a couple of runs down the flank and won a couple of corners, but their final ball was found lacking. Instead, it was the home side that began to impose themselves on the game.
Geylang goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari was a busy man following a calm start. He was called into action on numerous occasions to keep the scores level. First, Mikiya Yamada launched a rocket that stung his palms in the 21st minute before he needed to be at full stretch to keep out Masaya Jitozono’s curling attempt soon after. He was also alert off his line to ensure that Naofumi Tanaka’s run into the box came to nothing.
The lively Jitozono was a menace against the Geylang defence as the Albirex attack flowed through him. He forced yet another save by Buhair as the Albirex pressure started to show. Tanaka found his header from Hiroyoshi Kamata’s cross go just wide as well as the half ended goalless.
The second-half was all Albirex as they controlled possession but had little to show for it as they were unable to create a goal-scoring opportunity. At the other end, however, substitute Anders Aplin tested goalkeeper Eita Kasagawa with a header by the far post but it lacked power to cause too much concern. Yuki Ichikawa had the best chance of the match for Geylang as he went inches wide with his volley following Anders Aplin’s nod back inside the area.
The home fans were getting nervous as the match looked like it was heading towards a draw. However, Rui Kumada, on for Jitozono in the 71 minute, forced the issue and made a quick impact after he forced a brilliant save from Buhari with a header in an unmarked position.
Off the corner, Albirex scored. Nagasaki whipped in a ball that was just perfect for Shirota to arrow into the back of the net much to the relief of the home side.
Geylang tried to draw level but were unable to fashion anything of note. Faritz Hameed’s cross in the dying moments found the head of Aplin but it was not on target and Albirex hung on for three precious points.
Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naruo: “I was expecting this game to be very difficult for us. Our plan was to win one-nil and we achieved that.
“We had to play as a team to win this game as some of our players were suspended. We did that and we could win the three points tonight. Of course, we focus on one game at a time as always towards getting the title.”
Geylang International coach Hasrin Jailani: “There can be no question behind asked about my team’s commitment, hunger and desire. Our game plan was to defend and make sure they do not score. We knew that as long as they don’t score we can counter.
“Unfortunately, they did and we could have done better in terms of stopping to goals. In open play, there were open chances of both sides. I cannot ask anything more from the players and they should be proud of their performance.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Eita Kasagawa (GK), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fukihara, Atsushi Shirota (C), Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Masaya Jitozono (Rui Kumada 71’), Kazuki Mine, Kento Nagasaki, Daichi Ishiyama (Tatsuro Inui 86’), Hiroyoshi Kamata
Geylang International: Yuki Ichikawa, Grabriel Quak (Amy Recha 73’), Daniel Bennett, Faritz Hameed, Safirul Sulaiman, Al-Qaasimy Rahman (Shahfiq Ghani 82’), Nor Azli Yusoff (C), Shawal Anuar, Sahil Suhaimi, Syazwan Buhari (GK), Roberto Camarasa (Anders Aplin 66’)