RHB Singapore Cup 2017: White Swans Sinks Protectors For Third Consecutive Final
Written by: Nevin Gabriel Khoo
Holders Albirex Niigata (S) progressed to the RHB Singapore Cup final after a hard fought 2-1 victory on the night and 5-2 on aggregate over Home United at the Bishan Stadium on Saturday night.
It will be Albirex third finals in a row, having won the Cup in 2015 and 2016 defeating Home United and Tampines Rovers respectively.
Trailing to the White Swans by two goals from the first leg, Home stated their intent from the kick-off. They dominated the proceedings, with Juma’at Jantan registering the first after just six minutes.
However, the White Swans weren’t here just to defend their lead. The Protectors had to thank captain and custodian Hassan Sunny for keeping the aggregate score at 1-3 in the eighth minute.
A quick break from the away side saw Tsubasa Sano one-on-one with Hassan. But, the custodian closed the Japanese striker down and gave Home hopes of a comeback.
The Protectors suffered a setback after Song limped off in the 22nd second minute but substitute Sirina Camara was on hand to plug the hole.
Home pressed forward looking for a way back into the semi-final and Irfan Fandi nearly opened the scoring for the night in the 24th minute.
Stipe Plazibat slipped a through ball to the centreback, who was reassigned as a striker in the second leg, but some excellent goalkeeping from keeper Yosuke Nozawa preserved Albirex’s lead.
The Japanese custodian thwarted another Home attack two minutes latter. Izzdin Shafiq tried a half-volley from 25 yards out but Nozawa saved easily.
The pressure from Home paid off in the last minute of the first half after the White Swans conceded a penalty. Faris Ramli stepped up to the spot and calmly placed the ball into the bottom right corner to put Home one up for the night and 2-3 on aggregate.
The White Swans hoped to pin the Protectors back in their half after the restart and nearly restored their two-goal cushion in the 54th minute. Kento Nagasaki tried a shot from distance but was disappointed to see his shot rattled the crossbar.
Tensions flared in the 60th minute after a slew of sliding tackles from nearly half the home side resulted in Adam Swandi receiving a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Home pressed forward, leaving gaps in their defence and the White Swans duly punished them. Nagasaki found himself in space in the 83rd and drilled his shot into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 on aggregate.
It was all over in the 86th minute as defender Takuya Akiyama header home a corner to give Albirex the lead for the night.
The White Swans will meet Philippines invitee Global Cebu FC in the final slated for November. Global made their first-ever RHB Singapore Cup final after defeating Hougang United 2-1 at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night to progress 4-3 on aggregate.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “I think my boys gave everything. I think you can see in the first half especially, they really gave their all. The goals were unfortunate. I think you need to give credit to the Albirex and their goalkeeper. He made a lot of good saves if not Irfan could have scored 2 goals easily.”
“To be honest, and I’m not here to complain, but we played 4 games in 11 days. It is not easy. We are the team that have played the most number of games in the S.League so definitely the fatigue will be there. But the boys showed their desire today and we can’t take it away from them.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “We analysed our matches so far and realized that if we had at least 2 days of rest, we would be able to get a good result. On top of that, Home United have played 1 more game than us. During the today and the previous game, we tried to keep the ball in play so as to tire their players.”
“We didn’t panic even though they scored first because we know that we still had the lead on aggregate. We had analysed videos on Home United and the National team and realized that if we tire their players out, we would be able to break their defence.”
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C),Hariss Harun, Juma'at Jantan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Aqhari Abdullah, Song Uiyong (Sirina Camara 22’), Stipe Plazibat, Faris Ramli, Izzdin Shafiq, Irfan Fandi, Adam Swandi (Iqram Rifqi 90’)
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Tomoki Menda, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba (C), Ryota Nakai (Shoma Kondo 90’), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Tsubasa Sano, Kento Nagasaki, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Rui Kumada 86’), Yasutaka Yanagi