Eagles fail to soar against fresher Albirex
Japanese side one step ahead of Steinebrunner's jaded outfit and easily book final ticket
(Atsushi Kawata 11, Kento Nagasaki 82, Fumiya Kogure 88)
They huffed and puffed, but an off-colour Geylang International just could not produce enough quality to reach the final of The New Paper League Cup.
Jorg Steinebrunner's men were soundly beaten 2-0 by a fitter, fresher Albirex Niigata side in the semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
The Japanese outfit will now play either Balestier Khalsa or Hougang United - the two sides meet in the other last-four tie tonight - in the final at the same venue on Friday.
Steinebrunner pointed to fatigue as the reason for his team's flat performance.
"We did not have the physical presence," said the German.
"You could see which team just played two days ago and which team played nine days ago."
Geylang beat Brunei DPMM 4-2 in their final Group A match, a high-intensity affair, last Thursday.
Albirex, meanwhile, beat amateur side Sporting Westlake 2-0 in their second and final Group C game on June 26.
"To be honest, (the defeat) feels like a shot in the back," said Steinebrunner.
"It's not like we lost to a team who were 50 or 60 per cent better than us.
"We were physically and mentally tired, and maybe that's why we made the mistakes we did. That was the difference between them and us."
Indeed, Geylang looked weary last night and nothing like the team that plundered 10 goals in their three Group A games to become the League Cup's top scorers.
Striker Bruno Castanheira, who scored a hat-trick against DPMM, was isolated up front and fed on scraps.
The Eagles did not help their cause when they conceded a set-piece goal after just 11 minutes, when Atsushi Kawata stole ahead of Geylang's veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin to head home Fumiya Kogure's free-kick.
Albirex took their foot off the pedal, but were still comfortable keeping Geylang at bay.
Two wonderful strikes in the final eight minutes killed off any hopes of an Eagles comeback.
First, Kento Nagasaki fired a brilliant shot from 25 metres over Yazid's despairing dive, before Kogure curled a free-kick from 20 metres right into the top corner.
Albirex coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama brushed aside suggestions his side benefited from a kinder schedule.
"Even in the S.League, we are used to playing a game every two or three days," he said.
"We just follow the fixtures and play the games as they come. Tonight, we showed very good spirit to get to the final."
The former J-League midfielder is confident of leading Albirex to their second League Cup triumph. The White Swans won the competition in 2011.
"Tomorrow morning, Japan will play in the Women's Fifa World Cup final," he said.
"They are going to win. Then, it's our turn to win the League Cup final.
"So it's going to be two Cups for the (Japanese) men and women."
- GEYLANG: Yazid Yasin, Anaz Hadee, Hafiz Osman, Kento Fukuda, Syed Thaha, Nor Azli Yusoff (Mustaqim Manzur 79), Yuki Ichikawa (Khairulnizam Jumahat 88), Hafiz Nor (Shawal Anuar 71), Tatsuro Inui, Jozef Kaplan, Bruno Castanheira
- ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Kento Fujihara, Itsuki Yamada, Hikaru Mizuno, Shun Inaba, Rui Kamada (Shotaro Ihata 60), Fumiya Kogure (Ryuki Matsuya 90), Rion Taki (Kento Nagasaki 79), Atsushi Kawata