Warriors' Weaver blames ref for loss
Warriors coach Weaver unhappy with controversial Albirex equaliser
WARRIORS FC 1
(Nicholas Velez 4)
ALBIREX NIIGATA 3
(Keisuke Ota 14, Kazuki Sakamoto 42, Kento Nagasaki 88)
There are often defining moments in football matches that prove the difference between victory and defeat.
And, in Albirex Niigata's 3-1 win over Warriors FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last night, that moment came in the 14th minute.
With the Japanese side trailing 1-0, Albirex winger Keisuke Ota charged down the left and lifted the ball over the onrushing Hassan Sunny before being scythed down by the Warriors goalkeeper.
But, having blown for the foul, referee Farhad Mohd then watched on as the ball made its way into the back of the net, reversed his decision and awarded the White Swans the equaliser.
The incident sparked off vehement protests from the Warriors' camp and coach Alex Weaver did not hide his frustration after the game.
"Obviously, I'm not going to speculate how the game would have turned out if not for the goal, but this is probably the harshest aspect of football," the Englishman said.
"Referees are part and parcel of the game, they make decisions just like players and coaches, and sometimes they get it wrong.
"It's a cliche, but goals change games and we had started very quickly, taken the lead and were looking very good.
"To have something happen that is out of your control is very unlucky and it's hard to take."
The Warriors certainly began the match the brighter of the two sides and took the lead after just four minutes.
Kevin McCann pounced on a loose ball and fed it to Nicholas Velez, who fired past Kenjiro Ogino.
Albirex nearly equalised in the ninth minute when Kazuya Okazaki found space and skipped inside Daniel Bennett, only to be denied by a fantastic save from Hassan.
However, they pulled level in the 14th minute through that moment of controversy and began to gain momentum.
While Farhad's decision was certainly a questionable one, the situation could perhaps have been avoided had the Warriors defence done better than to allow Ota to sneak in behind them.
And, three minutes before the break, they were exposed again as Kazuki Sakamoto beat the offside trap to latch onto Okazaki's pass before lifting his shot over Hassan.
To their credit, Warriors made a valiant attempt to fight back in the second half and Weaver changed things up by introducing ex-Singapore international Agu Casmir and exciting youngster Suria Prakash.
Still, they were just lacking that final touch in the attacking third and the White Swans went on to wrap up the win in the 88th minute when Kento Nagasaki exchanged a one-two with Okazaki before slotting through Hassan's legs.
The victory took Albirex up to third place and two points off the top of the table, and coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama remains confident they can challenge for the title.
"Of course, I retain hope that we can win the title," he said. "We still have plenty of room for improvement, but the players are doing their best.
"I think we showed throughout the 90 minutes that we are getting better and I'm very happy and satisfied with the result."
The Warriors slipped down to fifth in the 12-team table and are next in action on Aug 20 when they take on the Courts Young Lions.
WARRIORS FC: Hassan Sunny, Ismail Yunos, Daniel Bennett, Marin Vidosevic, Zulfadli Zainal, Shi Jiayi (Hafsyar Farkhan 90), Kevin McCann, Amin Rossady (Suria Prakash 70), Miroslav Pejic (Agu Casmir 53), Hafiz Rahim, Nicholas Velez.
ALBIREX NIIGATA: Kenjiro Ogino, Kento Fujihara (Taiyo Nishida 88), Shuhei Hotta, Norihiro Kawakami, Itsuki Yamada, Koki Akasaka, Kosuke Matsuda, Keisuke Ota, Kazuya Okazaki, Hiroki Morisaki (Hiroki Morisaki 68), Kazuki Sakamoto (Kazuya Fukuzaki 90).
TNP Man of the Match: Kazuya Okazaki