Albirex extend lead at the top
Japanese club look to have a vice-like grip on the title
ALBIREX NIIGATA 2
(Naofumi Tanaka 45, Masaya Jitozono 90)
GEYLANG INT'L 0
It was the perfect opportunity for Albirex Niigata to lay a stranglehold atop the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League summit.
And the Japanese side duly capitalised on the opportunity after they defeated a resurgent Geylang International 2-0 in front of approximately 2,000 fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
Albirex extended their undefeated run to seven matches, plundering an impressive 19 goals while conceding only one, making them firm favourites to lift their first S.League title.
And coach Naruki Naruo warned they have yet to hit top gear.
Speaking after the match, the Japanese coach said: "Today's victory is a big result for us but we still have room to improve. So, it is important that we don't think too far ahead but focus on the next game.
"We created many chances today but we were unable to convert them. This is something that we have to improve on and we also allowed Geylang to create chances which is something that we cannot allow in future games."
Naruo admitted that it was a close game which could have easily swung in favour of Geylang, who themselves entered the game on the back of three straight wins.
"Today was a very difficult game for us. Geylang's offensive players are very fast and they relied on the counter-attacks which made it difficult for us," he said.
"But we kept a clean sheet and we managed to score two goals so I am pleased with today's performance."
Albirex playmaker, Tatsuro Inui could have opened the scoring in the 26th minute but his audacious chip from nearly 35 metres out was punched to safety by Geylang custodian Syazwan Buhari, who had an impressive outing
Geylang did well to contain Albirex but a lapse in concentration near the end of the half presented the White Swans the opening goal.
Geylang veteran Daniel Bennett's poor headed clearance fell to Shuto Inaba who delivered a precise ball which marauding wingback Naofumi Tanaka easily fired home.
Tempers flared in the 52nd minute after Shariff Samat's rash challenge on Tanaka and the Geylang centre-half was lucky to escape with just a yellow.
Geylang wasted a couple of chances and Albirex substitute Masaya Jitozono made the three points safe with just his second touch of the ball, expertly curling in a shot from the edge of the Geylang penalty box to make it 2-0 just before the final whistle.
Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani preferred to focus on the positives.
"I think the boys played according to instructions. The only let-down was that we conceded near the end of the first half and it's not good to concede that kind of goal," he said.
"But we carried out what we planned during training and we were able to contain Albirex and we did create chances as well.
"It was anyone's game during the second half and we almost got an equaliser.
"It was an entertaining game today and I am sure the fans got their money's worth."
- ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Kento Nagasaki, Tomoki Menda, Tatsuro Inui (Masaya Jitozono 90), Hiroyoshi Kamata (Daichi Ishiyama 84), Atsushi Kawata
- GEYLANG: Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Yuki Ichikawa ,Shariff Samat, Daniel Bennett, Nor Azli Yusoff (Carlos Delgado 67), Safirul Sulaiman, Stanely Ng (Shawal Anuar 75), Gabriel Quak, Amy Recha (Sahil Suhaimi 67), Branko Cubrilo
- TNP Man of the Match: Syazwan Buhari (Geylang)
Today’s victory is a big result for us but we still have room to improve.
— Albirex coach Naruki Naruo