Singapore Football

Albirex create history with TNP League Cup win

Japanese hotshot Sano capitalises on Hyrulnizam's error as Albirex become record four-time winners

                    FINAL
ALBIREX NIIGATA WARRIORS FC
1 0
(Tsubasa Sano 111') After extra-time  

Hyrulnizam Juma'at must have had a sleepless night.

In his mind, the Warriors FC goalkeeper would have been replaying the incident which led to Albirex Niigata's winning goal in the final of The New Paper League Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.

With a penalty shoot-out looming - the score was goalless and with just nine minutes of extra-time to go - Hyrulnizam found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Albirex winger Ryuya Motoda drove to the byeline and sent in a cross which looked like a routine catch for the experienced former national goalkeeper.

The 30-year-old custodian got both gloves on the ball but, inexplicably, lost his grip and spilled his catch.

The ball fell to the feet of Albirex dangerman Tsubasa Sano - who had scored 19 goals in just 15 games before last night's final - and the 22-year-old made no mistake, sweeping home from five metres out.

Sano's strike handed Albirex their fourth League Cup title, and third in a row, making them the most successful side in the competition's history.

Hyrulnizam was disconsolate at the final whistle.

"It's a big waste," he said, with his head hung. "But we just have to forget about this, move on, and focus on the S.League."

It was a cruel end to a good game for Hyrulnizam - he had denied Sano twice in regulation time with great saves.

Indeed, the entire Warriors squad only had themselves to blame for not finishing off the match within 90 minutes.

They played some of their best football of the season, but contrived to miss every chance they conjured up.

Albirex goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa proved an impenetrable barrier between the sticks for the White Swans.

The veteran shot-stopper denied Warriors attackers Andrei Ciolacu, Shahril Ishak and Jordan Webb with crucial saves.

Nozawa's most important contribution came in the 82nd minute, after referee G Letchman had awarded a penalty to the Warriors for a handball.

Up stepped Canadian winger Webb, but Nozawa guessed the right way and comfortably parried his effort clear.

The rebound was somehow blazed over by Shahril, who put in a Man-of-the-Match performance.

Webb, like Hyrulnizam, was heartbroken after the game.

The 29-year-old had also missed the decisive penalty for Hougang United in the 2011 League Cup final - coincidentally, against Albirex.

MESSED UP

Teary-eyed, all Webb could muster was: "I messed up."

In extra-time, the Warriors' misses came back to haunt them.

First, Baihakki Khaizan saw a goal disallowed for offside in the 103rd minute, before Sano pounced on Hyrulnizam's error eight minutes later.

And right at the death, Warriors substitute Ridhuan Muhamad also saw his 120th-minute effort disallowed for offside.

Said Warriors coach Razif Onn: "We managed to hold them and create chances but unfortunately it did not go our way.

"I could see Jordan was demoralised after he missed (the penalty)... but I have nothing bad to say about my players' performance."

A delighted Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga said that his players' fighting spirit saw them through.

He said: "After the semi-final, I told my team to be prepared to fight until the penalty (shoot-out).

"Today, we played 120 minutes and my players fought to the very end. Their hard work brought us some luck today."

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOLENE ANG

npsports@sph.com.sg

ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba (Yuuki Yamanouchi 105), Rui Kumada, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Ryuya Motoda 70), Ryota Nakai (Koki Sato 72), Kento Nagasaki, Tsubasa Sano

WARRIORS: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Emmeric Ong, Baihakki Khaizan, Kento Fukuda, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin (Ridhuan Muhamad 96), Syaqir Sulaiman (Shaiful Esah 66), Ho Wai Loon (Firdaus Kasman 89), Hafiz Nor, Shahril Ishak, Jordan Webb, Andrei Ciolacu

LEAGUE CUPalbirex niigataWarriors FC