Albirex return to top of S.League
Albirex end goal drought as Hougang coach blames loss on new synthetic pitch
ALBIREX NIIGATA 2
(Atsushi Shirota 49, Tatsuro Inui 87)
HOUGANG UNITED 0
Albirex Niigata answered their critics in the best possible way by posting a solid, if unspectacular, 2-0 win over overnight league leaders Hougang United last night to take over the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League summit themselves.
The White Swans were on a 334-minute goal drought before centre back Atsushi Shirota struck in the 49th minute and Albirex coach Naoki Naruo took this victory as a sign of his team's resurgence.
He said: "Scoring goals is of utmost importance to us and so we have to improve on creating chances and putting them away.
"If we can continue improving on this win, against an Hougang team who were top and are hard to beat, we have a good chance of winning the league."
It was an unremarkable first half in front of 2,384 fans at the Jurong East Stadium as both teams struggled to adapt to the new synthetic pitch that made it difficult for players to run and judge how the bounce affected the ball.
In first-half added time, Hougang right back Nazrul Ahmad Nazari turned on the afterburners, beat Albirex centre back Kento Fujihara to the ball, pushed it past goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa but failed to net from an acute angle.
But the game exploded into life just four minutes into the second half when Shirota rose unmarked to nod in Kento Nagasaki's free-kick.
The visitors' frustrations showed as Fairoz Hasan, Yusiskandar Yusop, Faiz Salleh and Jozef Kaplan were booked in quick succession for some crude challenges.
POOR PLAYING SURFACE
Hougang forward Iqbal Hussain injected some attacking quality minutes after coming on as a 61st-minute substitute for Fairoz, linking up well with Nazrul, whose right-wing cross was headed just wide by his skipper Kaplan.
The Cheetahs were made to pay for their profligacy when Wahyudi Wahid was caught in possession, allowing Albirex sub Tatsuro Inui to curl past Khairulhin Khalid three minutes from time.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran was downcast after the defeat even though his team should remain in the top three at the end of this week.
He blamed the new pitch, as the abundance of black rubber pellets made it difficult to play a passing game.
"I'm disappointed with the state of the pitch because there were so many rubber pellets and I had to change tactics to play a long-ball game, which is not how I like my teams to play," said Balagumaran.
"But, if I persisted with short passing and build-up on this pitch, we might have lost by a bigger margin.
"Our football pitches have to improve if we want to raise our standard. Even at our home stadium, our field is so hard, it's hurting our players' knees and ankles.
"The positive thing is we are still in the top three. I have to motivate our players to bounce back from this defeat and find solutions to overcome the difficulties we face."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Nazrul Ahmad Nazari (Hougang United)
Albirex renew ties with Yuhua CSC
PARTNERS: MCCY Minister and Yuhua MP Grace Fu (in red) watches on as Yuhua Community Sports Club chairman Lim Chock Sing (left) and Albirex Niigata Football Club (Singapore) chairman Daisuke Korenaga (far left) sign their fourth Memorandum of Understanding yesterday. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEO SHENGWEI
Yuhua Community Sports Club and Albirex Niigata Football Club (Singapore) yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to connect with their community yesterday.
Their fourth Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the presence of Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Yuhua Member of Parliament Grace Fu.
In 2013, the White Swans pledged to donate $1 to Yuhua CSC for every fan who attended their home games at Jurong East Stadium.
From last season's games, they will contribute a record $19,499, taking their four-year total to $56,280.
The Yuhua Albirex Football Academy was also formed to provide children a platform to develop not only technical skills but also life values through football, and will continue for another 24 sessions this year.