Albirex through to semi-finals
Albirex coach Naruo calls for improvement after Geylang scare
QUARTER-FINAL, 2ND LEG
GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL 2
(Mark Hartmann 23, Sahil Suhaimi 44)
ALBIREX NIIGATA 2
(Atsushi Kawata 65, 75-pen)
- Albirex win 4-2 on aggregate
It was a tale of two halves for Albirex Niigata at Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
Going into the second leg of the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 lead from the first tie, the Japanese side's advantage was wiped out after goals from new signing Mark Hartmann and Sahil Suhaimi levelled the tie for Geylang International.
Whatever Albirex head coach Naoki Naruo said during half-time, it worked a treat as the White Swans mounted a comeback in the second half.
Forward Atsushi Kawata scored in the 65th minute and added a penalty in the 75th, as Albirex forced a 2-2 draw and progressed to the semi-finals 4-2 on aggregate.
Naruo was delighted with his team's battling qualities, but warned his defence to get their act together if they want to get to the final.
"We changed the formation in the second half and, after doing so, we performed much better," said Naruo after the match.
"In the first half, we did not press hard enough.
"By not doing so, we allowed them to get away with the very easy crosses, which were killing us."
Indeed, Albirex's normal watertight defence was caught napping in the first half as the Eagles capitalised on their mistakes.
Geylang took the lead in the 23rd minute after a precise cross from Gabriel Quak found Hartman, who smashed the ball past the Albirex goalkeeper.
The Albirex fans were then shell-shocked, when Sahil's left-footed shot from outside of the box found the back of the net again one minute before the break.
But the White Swans emerged from the break a changed side, reducing the deficit in the 65th minute after Kawata burst through the Geylang defence to beat Syazwan Buhari.
Kawata completed his team's comeback, when he was brought down by Geylang's Yuki Ichikawa and duly converted the penalty to loud cheers from the Japanese fans.
Geylang pushed forward in the last quarter of the game, but the Albirex defence held firm.
"I'm disappointed with the result, but not with the performance of my team today," said Hasrin Jailani, head coach of Geylang International.
"Our players were doing well until they scored their first goal, but I still believed that we could do it.
"When they scored the second goal, it was an uphill task for us.
"But my players gave more than 100 per cent today, which was very pleasing to see.
"At the end of the day, we didn't lose the game, but our poor first-leg match resulted in us being knocked out."
Albirex will next meet Balestier Khalsa in the semi-finals.
- ALBIREX NIIGATA: Yosuke Nosawa, Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Tomoki Menda, Masaya Jitozono (Rui Kumada 77), Kento Nagasaki, Tatsuro Inui (Mikiya Yamada 46), Atsushi Kawata, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Daichi Ishiyama 88)
- GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL: Syazwan Buhari, Yuki Ichikawa, Shariff Samat (Faritz Abdul Hameed 72) , Daniel Bennett, Al-Qaasimy Rahman (Isa Halim 82), Gabriel Quak, Safirul Sulaiman, Mark Hartmann, Carlos Delgado, Nor Azli Yusoff (Shawal Anuar 82), Sahil Suhaimi
- TNP Man of the Match: Atsushi Kawata (Albirex)