White Swans Edge Eagles to Continue Unbeaten Start
Defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) continued their flying start to the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League campaign after a narrow 1-0 win over Geylang International at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.
A solitary goal from Ryota Nakai early in the second-half separated the two teams in a closely-fought game.
With three key players in the form of Shawal Anuar, Ander Aplin and Stanely Ng missing through injury and suspensions, Geylang played with a back five to contain the threat of Albirex.
The tactic worked a treat in the first-half as the White Swans found it hard to breach the Eagles defence.
Nakai wriggled past two defenders on 17 minutes only to find Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari in his way.
Then on the stroke of half-time, Tsubasa Sano just failed to stretch in time to convert Hiroyoshi Kamata’s teasing cross into the six-yard box.
Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga reacted by switching Nakai from the left side of midfield to the no. 10 role just behind lone striker Sano and it proved to be a tactical masterstroke just eight minutes after the break.
Nakai managed to surge past a couple of Geylang defenders before firing a crisp low shot into the bottom left corner to give the White Swans the lead.
That goal sparked Geylang into action as they began to come out of their shell to find the equaliser, but their efforts proved to be futile in the end.
Safirul Sulaiman went through on goal via Victor Coto’s backheel in the 63rd minute, but fired over with just Yosuke Nozawa to beat.
Coto then did well to get past his marker six minutes later, but was denied in a one-on-one opportunity by Nozawa.
On 77 minutes, Coto had another try from the edge of the box which whistled past the left-hand post.
Geylang coach Harin Jailani threw on a couple of fresh legs in the form of Shahfiq Ghani and Prime League starlet Asshukrie Wahid in the final 10 minutes, but there was no way past a stellar Albirex backline led by Yasutaka Yanagi – who represented the Singapore Selection in their 3-2 win over Selangor Selection in last weekend’s Sultan of Selangor’s Cup.
Eventually the Eagles went down to their fourth defeat in eight games and dropped a spot to sixth as a result, while Albirex continued their unbeaten start to the season with seven wins and one draw.
Geylang International Head Coach Hasrin Jailani: “I’m disappointed with the result, but not the performance. Because of all the injuries and suspensions, we had to play with a back five but the players worked very hard.
“We came with a plan because Albirex is a quality team and plays with a 2-4-4 formation going forward. We had our chances too, but we did not take them. That’s the difference; Albirex had that one chance and took it. Going forward, I want the team to be more consistent. Defensively we are sound, but in attack we need to be more composed in front of goal and work on our finishing.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “Today’s match was a derby between (the sponsors) Canon and Epson, it’s important that we win for Canon. Also, it’s the chairman (Daisuke Korenaga)’s 40th birthday so the players wanted to win for him.
“Geylang played more defensively than we thought, so we had to make changes at half-time to counter. For example, Nakai played on the left in the first half but we moved up upfront in the second half and he scored the winning goal. We also requested the full-backs to hold the ball and go forward more.
“While we are happy to stay unbeaten after the first round (of fixtures), there are still areas for improvement. The five goals which we have conceded, some of them can be prevented. If we can correct our mistakes, then I can confidently say we will march towards defending the title.”
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Darren Teh, Faritz Hameed, Yuki Ichikawa, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Safirul Sulaiman, Amy Recha (Nor Azli Yusoff 64’), Isa Halim (C), Ricardo Sendra (Asshukrie Wahid 81’), Gabriel Quak (Shahfiq Ghani 81’), Victor Coto
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Rui Kumada, Takuya Akiyama, Yasutaka Yanagi, Naofumi Tanaka, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Koki Sato 90’), Shoichiro Sakamoto, Tsubasa Sano