- Singapore Premier League
SPL : Albirex Niigata (S) edge Young Lions 1-0, to move 3 points clear at the the top!
(Albirex Niigata FC Singapore - Image from Live Stream)
By Sadat Osman
Albirex Niigata FC (S) (ANFCS) travelled to the Jalan Besar Stadium to take on the Young Lions (YL) in the Round 16 tie of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) on Sunday night (22 Aug). And the White Swans came away with a 1-0 win, to go back to the top of the table.
Having conceded at least 1 goal in all of their 15 league outings this season, it took some time for the YL to grab a foothold on the game against the current champions in the opening stages. Takahiro Tezuka and Kosuke Chiku were the usual suspects for Albirex, as they controlled the midfield from the get-go.
(Albirex celebrate 1st goal - Photo by Football Association of S'pore)
Just 3 minutes in, Ong Yu En found himself in a good position inside the box after he received a cutback from the righthand side — he was tripped, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Ryosuke Nagasawa stepped up for the spot kick and powered a right-foot finish into the bottom left of the goal.
After ANFCS opened the scoring, a spark was lit under YL Coach Philippe Aw‘s forces. They retained possession confidently, forcing the visitors to chase shadows. Jacob Mahler also did well to shepherd his backline to keep out a potent White Swans’ side.
Ilhan Fandi and Joel Chew had their fair share of opportunities to level the score line, but nerves prevented the young forwards from finding the finishing touch needed to revive their side. The tempo remained red-hot towards the end of the first period as challenges flew in from all angles — without a goal to show for it.
Coming into the 2nd half, the home side came out of the gates with the same intensity that saw them close the first 45. Two minutes after the restart, Ryhan Stewart came close to levelling the scores after he took up an intelligent position behind the ANFCS midfield — he received a pass and had acres of space to shoot, but he couldn’t keep it on target. 2 minutes later, Khairin Nadim had a chance of his own from inside the penalty area, but his effort was over the bar.
Despite the White Swans constantly on the backfoot, they did muster up a decent opportunity for themselves via Tezuka. In the 63rd minute, the ANFCS no.3 received a cross from Kazuki Hashioka. However, his effort to twist and head the ball towards goal was a wayward one.
The home team maintained their ascendency, as Ilhan continued to cause several problems for the visitors’ defence. He came closest in the 68th minute, when he took a clever first touch to get away from Shuya Yamashita who was tightly marking him. The young striker was off-balance, but he still managed to register a shot on target. Nonetheless, Takahiro Koga came off his line quickly to cover the space and gather the ball with ease.
The YL continued to press on for the next 10 minutes or so, while the White Swans took their feet off the pedal. That allowed the YL, several opportunities to orchestrate attacking movements down the middle. And as they looked more threatening to score the equaliser, the visitors had no choice, but to employ attacking tactics of their own, to ensure they held on to the narrow lead.
The narrow win propels ANFCS back to the top of the SPL table with 37 points, three points ahead of 2nd-placed Lion City Sailors, who still have a game in hand. As for the Young Lions, after 16 rounds of action, they remain at the bottom with 10 points and 10 defeats! Onto round 17, the White Swans will host Balestier Khalsa FC at the Jurong East Stadium on 28 August, while YL will make the trip to Our Tampines Hub to face Geylang International FC on the same night.
Sadat Osman had a 10-year career in the publication industry, where he covered several beats including current affairs, food, fishing, music, and football. As the former chief editor at Goal.com and a fan of Newcastle United FC since 1996, Sadat also had a trial as a goalkeeper at Tanjong Pagar United FC. But today he remains a frequent social player of the game, who fancies Lionel Messi. However, Sadat's playing style is unfortunately similar to that of Titus Bramble!