Home's title hopes fading away after Albirex draw
Protectors held by leaders Albirex in crucial match, but coach Aidil vows to fight on
|HOME UNITED||ALBIREX NIIGATA|
|(Adam Swandi 72)||(Naofumi Tanaka 3)|
They rescued a draw, but Home United's players must have felt like they were on the receiving end of a defeat in last night's Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League match against leaders Albirex Niigata.
The Protectors clawed back from a nightmare start - conceding in the third minute at the Bishan Stadium - to equalise through Adam Swandi in the second half.
But, try as they might, they could not find an elusive second goal to take all three points.
Instead, the single point they took off Albirex meant they are still 16 points behind the Japanese side, albeit with four games in hand.
This also means Albirex can retain their title by winning just three of their final four matches.
Home coach Aidil Sharin refused to throw in the towel in the title race.
"The boys and I will never give up," he said.
"Football is all about how you keep fighting and keep going. That's the mentality at this club.
"Now, we have to look forward to our next match against Geylang and try to get a result.
"Anything can happen if we keep going."
Aidil admitted his players looked "sloppy" in the first half.
HOME: Hassan Sunny, Juma'at Jantan, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Sufianto Salleh, Aqhari Abdullah (Iqram Rifki 64), Izzdin Shafiq, Khairul Nizam (Adam Swandi 20), Song Ui Yong (Amiruldin Asraf 87), Faris Ramli, Stipe Plazibat
ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Tomoki Menda, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Ryuya Motoda (Rui Kumada 59), Shoichiro Sakamoto (Yuuki Yamanouchi 79), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai
3rd min: GOAL! Albirex get off to a dream start when Naofumi Tanaka's ambitious shot from the left creeps inside Hassan Sunny's near post.
7th min: Almost another fatal mistake for Home. Hariss Harun slips and Shoichiro Sakamoto pounces, but he fires over with only Hassan to beat.
12th min: Hassan charges off his line and denies Kento Nagasaki in a one-on-one situation.
36th min: Home's S.League top scorer Stipe Plazibat rolls his marker, but this time, it is Yosuke Nozawa who saves in a one-on-one situation.
56th min: Juma'at Jantan charges into the box and drills a shot towards the far post, but Nozawa tips his shot wide.
72nd min: GOAL! Irfan Fandi sets up Adam Swandi, whose shot is deflected over Nozawa.
78th min: Hassan pulls off a save to deflect Nagasaki's free-kick, which seemed bound for the top corner.
81st min: Hariss launches a counter-attack, which ends up with Faris Ramli heading wide at the far post, with the goal gaping.
82nd min: Juma'at's volley strikes Tanaka, who is on the goalline, and bounces clear.
90th min: Faris beats two men and curls a shot from the edge of the box which beats Nozawa, but strikes the post.
It didn't help matters when they conceded with barely three minutes on the clock, when Albirex left back Naofumi Tanaka lashed a shot from an improbable angle, catching Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny by surprise at his near post.
Said Aidil: "I'm not even sure the boy wanted to take a shot or cross.
"I think everyone was shocked - even their players celebrated only after a few seconds.
"Of course, we feel frustrated at letting in an easy goal."
Tanaka's goal silenced the over 2,000 fans and even stunned his coach, Kazuaki Yoshinaga.
"Tanaka? Surprise... Big surprise," said the former Shimizu S-Pulse coach, with a smile.
Home threw everything but the kitchen sink at Albirex in the second half, but found Albirex's former J.League goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa almost unbeatable.
Even when the Protectors' equaliser arrived in the 72nd minute, it came via a deflection on Adam's shot that looped over the 37-year-old.
When asked if he felt relieved to earn a point from the game, Yoshinaga deflected and spoke about his unhappiness at the scheduling of fixtures, which saw Albirex play in Bandar Seri Begawan less than 72 hours before last night's game.
"My feeling? Tired," he said.
"We just came back from Brunei on Sunday, so we had only two days of rest.
"If we played three days (after a match) in Singapore, I would not complain.
"But since we travelled overseas, I think it is not fair to the (fans) because people pay money to see a good game, and we can't because of tiredness from travelling.
"Hopefully, they (the league administrators) can improve on this."
Yoshinaga also insisted his charges would not let their guard down in the final stretch of matches.
"Today, we reached our initial target of 50 points," he said.
"Our next target is to reach 60 points, and we will make sure we achieve that target.
"We have not won anything yet, and the title has not been decided.
"And the teams below us on the table are fighting for a spot in the AFC Cup, so they will work very hard in their own matches.We won't rest on our laurels."
LAST NIGHT’S OTHER RESULT
- Brunei DPMM 1 Hougang United 4
- Tampines Rovers v Warriors FC
(7.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
- Garena Young Lions v Balestier Khalsa
(7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Geylang International v Home Utd
(7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Hougang United v Brunei DPMM
(7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)