Albirex Niigata(S) FC 2 (Atsushi Shimono 27’ Kunihiro Yamashita 51’)
Woodlands Wellington FC 0
Albirex Niigata bounced back to a 2-0 victory at home against the Rams after being dumped out of the RHB Singapore Cup by reigning S-League Champions Tampines Rover last week.
Albirex could have scored as early as the first minute, after Danny chew misjudged a long ball and allowed Toshikazu Soya to steal in. Thankfully though, the Japanese striker put it just inches wide.
Apart from that great chance, both teams never really got into their stride until a moment of brilliance from the Japanese side in the twenty seventh minute.
A well work play between Toshikazu Soya and Sho Kamimura opened up the defence, before the number ten supplied a well-weighted through pass to Atsushi Shimono. The midfielder then slotted the ball past the onrushing Ahmadulhaq Che Omar.
Four minutes later, Albirex could have gone two up but centre back Kunihiro Yamashita could only manage to head way over unmarked after Masatake Sato picked him out with a corner.
The White Swans had a number of chances to extend their lead in the last fifteen minutes of the half but a combination of poor finishing and some desperate defending from Woodlands prevented it.
However, the Rams certainly could not prevent them from scoring another in the second period.
Six minutes after the restart, a lapse of concentration from Fabien Lewis allowed centreback Kunihiro Yamashita to open the scoring, albeit a controversy one. The centreback had looked to be offside when he half-volleyed the ball in from a tight angle, after Kawakami had nodded on the ball from a freekick.
Despite the furious protest and appeals by the Woodlands Wellington players, referee Leow Thiam Hoe brushed it off and allowed the goal to stand.
That sparked a reply from the players in blue, as they pressed harder and put in challenges, some robust ones, in a bid to shackle Albirex from their usual game.
Top scorer Moon Soon Ho however, seemed to have left his scoring boots back at the Woodlands Stadium, as he missed shot after shot, confirming that it was just not to be Woodlands Wellington’s day.
The game not only meant that Albirex Niigata(S) returned to the top of the table for at least twenty four hours, but it also exemplified their strong character and ability to bounce back from back to back sapping losses against Tampines Rovers in the RHB Singapore Cup Quarter Finals.
This is a trait that might not be seen from the young Japanese teams in previous years, but under the likes of Atsushi Shimono, Kunihiro Yamashita and Captain Norihiro Kawakami, the Albirex Niigata(S) team of 2012 has shown some real steel and grit.
Happy with performance despite loss
Speaking at the end of the match, Woodlands Wellington assistant coach Clement Teo felt that his team did well but just did not take their chances and were punished by their defensive mistakes.
“First half we conceded a goal that was rather silly and I don’t want to comment on the controversial goal. It has already been given and we can’t change anything so we just have got to live with it,” said Teo. “We are happy with the performance of our players, of course certain areas have got to improve in terms of defending.”
“We had our chances but Moon didn’t bring his shooting boots,” Teo added.
Albirex Niigata(S) head coach Koichi Sugiyama felt that the key to the win was their dominance in midfield, and praised his players for a good job.
“Today our players did a very good job. We could change our mentality and recover from the Tampines loss. We became stronger as a result” said Sugiyama.
“Woodlands are a very good team, they did not give up but we dominated the midfield and our defence was very good. That was what got us our win,” Sugiyama added.
Albirex Niigata(S) will next face Brunei DPMM in a potential top of the table clash on 18th July, while Woodlands Wellington will face defending champions Tampines Rovers a day earlier.
Yellows: Takeshi Ito (Albirex Niigata(S)) Farizal Basri, Hussein Akil, Daniel Hammond, Neil Vanu, Fabien Lewis (Woodlands Wellington)
Albirex Niigata(S): Takuma Ito(GK), Norihiro Kawakami(C), Kunihiro Yamashita, Atsushi Shimono, Keisuke Matsui, Musashi Okuyama, Sho Kamimura, Toshikazu Soya (Yasuhiro Yamakoshi 85’), Masatake Sato, Takeshi Ito, Hidekazu Yamamoto (Yuki Ichikawa 55’). Unused subs: Shuhei Hotta, Yuta Oguriyama, Kohta Tamakawa, Hiroaki Hara.
Woodlands Wellington: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar(GK), Danny Chew (Goh Swee Swee 43’), Duncan Elias, Fabien Lewis, Daniel Hammond(C), Armanizam dolah, Guntur Djafril, Moon Soon Ho, Aloysius Yap (Shamsurin Rahman 65’), Farizal Basri (Neil Vanu 65’), Hussein Akil. Unused subs: Han Yi Guang, Ang Bang Heng, Oswind Suriya, Zulkarnain Malik.