News • April 3, 2016

White Swans Return To The Top After Defeating Cheetahs


Written by: Aysha Ridzuan

Albirex Niigata (S) returned to the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League 2016 table after defeating Hougang United 2-0 at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night.

The Cheetahs had came into the game as league leaders, but seemed to have problems playing their normal game on the new artificial turf at Jurong East Stadium and took some time to settle into the match.

After a goalless first-half, Atsushi Shirota gave the hosts the lead immediately after the break, before Tatsuro Inui doubled Albirex’s lead to help the hosts get back to winning ways after losing to Warriors FC in their previous game.

The White Swans threatened to open the scoring just four minutes into the game when Kento Nagasaki launched a volley from the edge of the box that went wide, before Atsushi Kawata tried an ambitious effort from the halfway line and missed.

The visitors had an opportunity to break the deadlock when Nurhilmi Jasni slid the ball to Wahyudi Wahid, but the defender’s shot was too weak to trouble White Swans custodian Yosuke Nozawa.

Nagasaki then attempted yet another long-range effort, but sent his shot way over the bar, failing to trouble Khairulhin Khalid in Hougang’s goal.

The White Swans continued to pressure the Cheetahs and almost succeeded when Kawata fired a fierce drive from just outside the 18-yard box, but saw his shot flew wide of the mark.

Albirex’s best chance of the first period came in the 25th minute when Nazrul Nazari failed to deal with Shuto Inaba’s cross and the ball fell into the path of Nagasaki. However, the midfielder fired his shot just over the crossbar.

Kawata subsequently attempted a curling attempt from the edge of the box minutes later, but his shot landed on the top of the net.

The Cheetahs could have gone into the break with the lead when Nurhilmi sent Nazrul throught on goal. The winger managed to get to the ball before Nozawa, but could only fire his shot into the side-netting.

Albirex gradually built momentum after the interval and got the breakthrough just three minutes into the second period when Shirota slotted home Nagasaki’s free-kick from a close range.

Hougang had a glorious chance to pull level minutes later when Kento Fujihara’s backpass to Kawata was intercepted by Jozef Kaplan, but the Slovakian was unable to get past Nozawa.

Kaplan was guilty of missing another gilt-edged chance when he sent his header from Nazrul’s pin-point cross just wide of the goalpost, as the Cheetahs captain continued his frustrating wait for his first goal of the season.

The Japanese side should have doubled their lead in the 69th minute when their constant pressure resulted in a melee in the box, but Khairulhin was on hand to deny Hiroyoshi Kamata.

However, there was nothing Khairulhin could do four minutes from time when Kawata sold Wahyudi the dummy and carved the Cheetahs’ defence opened with a fabulous pass to Inui to curl home and seal the game for the hosts.

Albirex Niigata (S) coach, Naoki Naruo: “Hougang came into this game as leaders of the league. We didn’t really have much choice but to remain the same formation. I think we had difficulties at times but we managed to keep a clean sheet. That is good for the team. However I still think we should create more chances.”

Hougang United FC coach, K.Balagumaran: “It’s a disappointing result. I didn’t know the pitch was this bad. My team couldn’t play our passing game. I started off with one formation and then I had to change it and started playing long ball. Albirex is a good team. They are fast and strong but I don’t think we deserved this result.”

Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Rumi Kamada (Kazuki Mine 64’), Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Kento Nagasaki, Daichi Ishimaya (Tamoki Menda 81’), Atsushi Kawata, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Tatsuro Inui 71’)

Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid, Wahyudi Wahid, Yusiskandar Yusop (Nur Naiim Ishak 79’), Faiz Salleh (Huzaifah Aziz 87’), M.Anumanthan, Fumiya Kogure, Nurhilmi Jasni, Nazrul Nazari, Fairoz Hasan (Iqbal Hussain 61’), Jozef Kaplan, Stipe Plazibat