Tanjong Pagar United 0
Albirex Niigata(S) 2 (Masatake Sato 31’, Kunihiro Yamashita 49’)
The White Swans continued their winning form and hunt for the title on Thursday evening with a 2-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United.
Albirex Niigata(S) went about things in their same old usual style, preferring to pass and stroke the ball around to find spaces in the Jaguars defence. In truth, they rarely got out of second gear and were not troubled much by a defensive Tanjong Pagar side.
United had started the game with six defenders in the starting lineup, with fullbacks Delwinder Singh and Azhar Ahmad taking their spots in centre midfield, although it has to be said that Captain Delwinder is not that unfamiliar with the position there; he has in fact played there on a number of occasions already this year.
It was an unfamiliar spot for Azhar however, as Zahid Ahmad’s suspension meant that he had to fill in there while Seah Si Hao, having impressed in his last outing after coming on as a sub started the game.
The inexperience and unfamiliar look of the team did not restrict them though; in fact, they started the game as the brighter of the two sides, with debutant Gilbert Bayonne missing a chance early on.
It took just ten minutes for Albirex to get into groove and their first chance of the game nearly resulted in an opening goal.
A defence splitting pass from Atsushi Shimono found overlapping right fullback Yuki Ichikawa, but the latter could only manage to smash the ball against the cross bar.
The home side had an equally great opportunity just seven minutes later, when Asraf Rashid stole in unnoticed, but the attacking midfielder missed a sitter, failing to find the target from just eight yards out.
Albirex finally took the lead on the thirty-first minute mark, but it was not without controversy.
An initial freekick taken by Masatake Sato was blocked by Delwinder Singh, who was deemed to have move out of the wall before the kick was taken by the Japanese midfielder, although the ball in actual fact was rolled towards him already.
Sato then scored from the retake, curling it to the top right hand corner of Fajar Sarib’s post, who failed to keep it out despite getting a touch on the ball.
Albirex then extended their lead just four minutes after the restart.
Awarded a freekick on the right, Masatake Sato whipped it into the area instead of going for goal this time round. Centreback Kunihiro Yamashita then somehow managed to ghost in unmarked and duly headed the ball into the empty net just before Fajar Sarib got to the ball.
That sparked an immediate response from Tanjong Pagar who started to dominate the proceedings for at least ten minutes with Bayonne leading the charge although he seemed to be the only who was able to trouble the White Swans’ backline, even drawing the attention of three defenders on a few occasions.
It was for sure that Bayonne’s effort alone would not be enough, particularly with his midfielders unwilling to push up at times.
It was plain for all to see that by the seventy-fifth minute mark, Albirex had regain their strangle hold on the match.
True enough, they could have almost taken a lead a minute later, when Sho Kamimura’s thunderous effort hit the post from far.
Clearly subdued by their more talented opponents, the Jaguars failed to have a sniff on goal in the last ten minutes of the match, ensuring that Albirex took home the three points.
Speaking after the match, Tanjong Pagar United Head Coach Terry Pathmanathan felt that the lack of players available contributed to the loss.
Terry said, “It’s tough trying to get the best available players. We’ve had to introduce the prime league players. It’s tough for me as a coach. Hopefully we can get more players before the transfer window closes.”
“That way I think, we will be able to look at games telling ourselves that we have a 50-50 chance or even more to win a game because at the moment, it’s like a handicap to us.”
For Albirex Head Coach Koichi Sugiyama, he felt that Tanjong Pagar actually posed some problems for them and were difficult to beat.
“Definitely we controlled the game, but Tanjong Pagar United was good defensively. We could have scored more, but the fact that we only managed to score two shows how good Tanjong Pagar defence was,” Sugiyama said.
He also felt that the Jaguars debutant Gilbert Bayonne performed well, but felt his defence adapted and coped well to nullify the threat from the Haitian.
He said, “Our defence defended very well, although we couldn’t match up to him at times. But otherwise I thought we coped well, and that is one of the reasons why we got the win.”
With the win, Albirex Niigata(S) moved up to second in the table, just two points behind league leaders Brunei DPMM FC, who will play SAFFC on Saturday.
Yellow cards: Delwinder Singh (TPUFC)
Tanjong Pagar United: Fajar Sarib(GK), Hafiz Osman, Delwinder Singh(C), Jonathan Xu, Azhar Ahmad, Asraf Rashid, Sudhershen Hariram, Hanafi Salleh, Gilbert Bayonne, Hafiz Nor, Seah Si Hao (Abdul Rahim 46’). Unused subs: Syed Karim, Shamsudin Hashim, Is Hafizuddin.
Albirex Niigata(S): Takuma Ito(GK), Norihiro Kawakami(C), Yuki Ichikawa, Kunihiro Yamashita, Atsushi Shimono, Keisuke Matsui, Musashi Okuyama, Yasuhiro Yamakoshi (Toshikazu Soya 73’), Sho Kamimura (Masahiko Ando 90’), Masatake Sato (Keita Kobayashi 78’), Takeshi Ito. Unused subs: Yutaka Nishi, Daiki Shoji, Yuta Oguriyama, Hiroaki Hara.