Albirex Condemn Warriors To First Defeat
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Albirex Niigata (S) pulled four points clear at the summit of the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League standings after a nervy 4-2 victory over Warriors FC at the Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night.
The White Swans had established a four-goal lead through a brace from Tsubasa Sano and one each from Shoichiro Sakamoto and Kento Nagasaki and were in firm control of the game.
However, Jordan Webb and Shahril Ishak struck in the space of 11 second-half minutes to set up a grandstand finish.
Having made five changes to their starting lineup, Warriors conceded five minutes in when Sakamoto bundled home Nagasaki’s corner from close range.
The visitors could have levelled matters three minutes after the opener, but Hafiz Nor narrowly missed the ball after Webb had done well to cut it back into his path at the other end.
It was a chance they were left to rue as Sano extended Albirex’s lead on 14 minutes.
Latching onto Takuya Akiyama’s long punt, the forward proceeded to lob the ball over Warriors goalkeeper Zainol Gulam, who was making his first start of the season.
Razif Onn’s side managed to keep their opponents at bay thereafter and the next chance would come sixteen minutes later as substitute Ryota Nakai’s low shot was smothered by Zainol.
Sakamoto could have made it two goals to the good for Albirex in the 42nd minute after he found himself unchallenged in the box, but could only send a header just over.
The hosts were then reduced to ten men on the stroke of half-time when Tomoki Menda was shown a straight red card.
The numerical disadvantage mattered little as Albirex pulled further ahead in the 53rd minute with Nagasaki curling a sublime free-kick over the Warriors wall and into the bottom corner to make it 3-0.
Webb then had an opportunity to reduce the deficit on 56 minutes, but fired over from outside the box after Shahril’s shot was blocked.
Sano went on to add to his tally on the night on the hour mark as he sprung the offside trap before slotting past an onrushing Zainol to put some daylight between the two teams.
However, Warriors managed to pull one back in the 67th minute when Webb converted from the spot for his sixth of the season after Yasutaka Yanagi had handled in the box.
Sensing blood, the nine-time league champions pushed forward in numbers and were rewarded with another goal ten minutes later as Shahril’s free-kick from the left evaded everyone in the box and sailed into the back of the net.
Warriors huffed and puffed in the closing stages, but just failed to find the two goals they needed for a point as they slumped to their first defeat this season.
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “I was confident before the game we would win and we did just that. Credit must go to the players, they worked very hard to ensure the win today and I want to praise them for the hard work.
“I was not really worried (that Warriors would come back at 4-2), I trusted the players who were disciplined enough and kept themselves composed throughout.”
Warriors FC Head Coach Razif Onn: “It was too early in the game that we conceded the first goal; the Albirex strikers were quick and stronger on the ball.
“I was told (Ho) Wai Loon and Firdaus (Kasman) a day before the game that they will not be able to play today, but I thought they could have made a difference. But that’s no excuse, the players who come in must be able to step up and perform.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Tomoki Menda, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba (C), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Tsubasa Sano (Koki Sato 90’), Kento Nagasaki, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Rui Kumada 71’), Yasutaka Yanagi, Ryuya Motoda (Ryota Nakai 24’)
Warriors FC: Zainol Gulam (GK), Zulfadli Zainal, Syaqir Sulaiman, Kento Fukuda, Emmeric Ong, Joel Tshibamba (Ridhuan Muhamad 59’), Jordan Webb, Baihakki Khaizan (C), Poh Yi Feng (Shaiful Esah 68’), Shahril Ishak, Hafiz Nor