History beckons for Albirex
White Swans will be first team to win League Cup four times if they beat Warriors in Friday's showpiece
|ALBIREX NIIGATA||GEYLANG INT'L|
|(Takuya Akiyama 28, Tsubasa Sano 79, 82, Ryota Nakai 88)|
Albirex Niigata are 90 minutes away from making history.
After dismantling Geylang International 4-0 in the semi-finals at the Jurong East Stadium last night, the Japanese outfit became the first team to reach The New Paper League Cup final three years running.
And, if they beat Warriors FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday, the White Swans will be the first team to win the competition four times, and three in a row.
Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga, however, isn't getting ahead of himself.
"I'm not getting too excited yet," said the former Shimizu S-Pulse coach.
"Although we beat the Warriors recently (in the League Cup group stage), they have a very strong attacking line-up which we must know how to defend against.
"That is what I'm thinking of now - how to win the game.
"If we don't win the final, all this talk is meaningless."
Albirex and Warriors had met on July 10, with the Japanese side running out 2-0 victors.
Yoshinaga, however, said the result does not make his charges favourites for the final.
"We are not thinking about our previous win over the Warriors, because the final is a one-off game," said the 49-year-old coach.
"If one side do not turn up (and perform), the other will win.
"So we must prepare well for this game... from the first minute, to the 120th and penalties.
"We have to prepare for all scenarios and think of all possibilities."
We are not thinking about our previous win over the Warriors, because the final is a one-off game.Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga
While last night's scoreline flattered Albirex, they were made to work hard for the win.
After Kento Nagasaki saw his 25th-minute volley strike the woodwork, defender Takuya Akiyama broke the deadlock three minutes later, powering home a header from a corner-kick.
The S.League leaders, however, found it hard to assert their dominance, with a save from Eagles' goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari off Tsubasa Sano's close-range effort in the 33rd minute the closest they came to doubling their lead in the first half.
But, in the closing stages of the match, after Geylang coach Noor Ali had thrown on attack-minded players in search of an equaliser, Albirex managed to secure their place in the final.
Sano scored a quick-fire brace (79th and 82nd minutes) before Ryota Nakai added gloss to the scoreline by rounding Syazwan and finishing into an empty goal two minutes before the end.
Despite the heavy defeat, Noor Ali had no regrets going for broke towards the end.
"It doesn't matter if we had lost 1-0 or 4-0, we still wouldn't have gone into the final right?" said the former national player.
"I had to take the gamble at 1-0 down... It's not easy to play Albirex, who are defending champions and top of the table in the S.League.
"Our boys did well in the first half and played some good football... (but) to concede from the set-piece was disappointing."