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SPL : Leaders Albirex Niigata maintain 12-match unbeaten run with 1-1 draw against 2nd-ranked Sailors!

by Circle News, on Jul 24, 2021 8:36:44 AM

has(Team Captains Hassan Sunny and Kazuki Hashioka with Match Officials before Kickoff - Image from Live Stream)

 

By Sherman Yong

 

On an early Friday evening in Jurong East Stadium, all eyes fell upon the Lion City Sailors FC (LCS) as they challenged the leading team in the 2021 Singapore Premier League - Albirex Niigata Football Club (Singapore) or ANFCS.

The Sailors were on a promising run thus far, going on a 6-match winning streak before the two-month break. While blindsided by the sudden departure of former coach Aurelio Vidmar in April, the team has since increased its arsenal with key transfers such as prominent midfielder Hariss Harun (previously from Johor Darul Takzim) and Kim Do-Hoon (former coach of Ulsan Hyundai FC).

Image 2-1(Photo Credit: Lion City Sailors FC)

 

If anything, the new signings are crucial for the LCS players as they square up against the White Swans - who've denied them countless victories in their past encounters. Hungry for revenge, the Sailors were most definitely looking for an upset against their rivals in this highly-anticipated showdown.

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As the match kicked off at the home of Albirex, the Sailors’ new Head Coach wasted no time making waves on the field - placing key players like Gabriel Quak and Diego Lopez on the bench, while inserting Adam Swandi and Aqhari Abdullah in the starting lineup.

Image 3-3(Photo Credit: Singapore Premier League)

 

The White Swans, however, seemed unfazed by the unconventional reshuffling of Kim Do-Hoon as they fell into their familiar defensive strategy. Playing a slow game in the first-half, the ANFCS players bided their time as they constantly jostled against the Sailors for ball possession. With impeccable teamwork and precision, the defending league champions easily controlled the tempo of the match - frustrating their opponents as they repeatedly lost ball possession.

Troubling signs for the hopeful Sailors soon emerged at the 20th minute as their defenders were found wanting. Albirex were able to breeze through the Sailors’ defenders multiple times, leaving goalkeeper Hassan Sunny to fend for himself as he deflected shot after shot.

Image 4-Jul-23-2021-11-17-02-28-PM(Photo Credit: Singapore Premier League)

 

For a moment, it seemed that Lady Luck would hold out for Hassan as he denied ANFCS of first blood. Yet, a defensive foul committed by Aqhari Abdullah against Tokiwa Yu in the 47th minute proved to be the goalkeeper’s downfall. Overly zealous in his defense, the Sailors’ defender tripped the Japanese player within the penalty box - leading to the referee’s decision for a penalty. Taking full use of the opportunity, Taniguchi Ryoya stepped forward and delivered a powerful shot into the top right corner. The half-time whistle came shortly after, and the Sailors now found themselves 1-nil down against the champs. 

Image 5-2(Photo Credit: Lion City Sailors FC)

 

Yet it was still too soon to count the Sailors out from the fight - their coach still had some tricks left in his sleeves. Substituting Glenn Ong for Diego Lopes in the 2nd half, the Brazilian footballer immediately made a visible impact for the Sailors with tighter ball control and precision passing. The White Swans were caught on their heels as the Sailors regained their momentum, pressing hard into their opponent’s once-impeccable defenses.

Image 6-2(Photo Credit: Singapore Premier League)

 

A moment of brilliance eventually shone through for the Sailors in the 72nd minute. Diego Lopez drove the ball past Albirex’s defense, passing off to Hafiz Nor, who followed up with an impressive cross to Stipe Plazibat. Left unchecked, the Croatian hitman needed no further invitation as he slammed the ball into the lower right corner - earning the Sailors a much-needed equaliser.

With 18 minutes left, it was still anybody's game. Bolstered by their recent goal, the Sailors doubled-down on their offensive tactics. Yet, it was at these crucial moments that the White Swans demonstrated their worth as the current leaders in SPL 2021. Hunkering down on their backline, the Albirex players constantly hounded the Sailors - preventing them from making any threatening shots as the clock ticked down.

A golden opportunity almost came through at the 89th minute as Diego Lopes passed the ball towards an unguarded Gabriel Quak. Unfortunately, the no. 22 fumbled as he received the ball - watching in bitter disappointment, as the Sailors’ victory slipped away from their hands once again.

Image 7(Photo Credit: Lion City Sailors FC)

 

Concluding with a 1-1 draw, Albirex remain as the current leaders after 12 rounds, with a 1-point lead over LCS.  The White Swans will face Hougang United next on 30th July, while the Sailors will face  Tampines Rovers on 4th Aug.

Sherman is currently in his final year at the National University of Singapore. He had occasionally dabbled in sports such as Handball and Touch Rugby during his freshman days, but unfortunately he wasn't very good at it. Apart from keeping up with sports news, Sherman likes to dance and listen to music during his free time. If he's not cooped up at home thinking of the next potential story to write, you'll most likely see him around in vacant car parks practicing his dance moves. For what purpose? He does not know.

Topics:Sports