Late win takes S.League leaders Albirex 10 points clear
White Swans open up 10-point gap at the top after beating Warriors
ALBIREX NIIGATA 3
(Tatsuro Inui 24, 26, Daichi Ishiyama 89)
WARRIORS FC 2
(Nikola Rak 37, Jonathan Behe 65)
Albirex Niigata's excellent form continued after Daichi Ishiyama scored a dramatic winner one minute from time to kill off a determined Warriors FC side.
The White Swans had gotten off to a good start at the Jurong East Stadium last night, going 2-0 up within 26 minutes.
The Warriors then fought back gallantly to draw level, with goals from Nikola Rak and Jonathan Behe.
But it was Albirex who had the final say, as Ishiyama sealed a 3-2 win to clinch their eighth successive Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League victory.
Albirex coach Naruki Naruo was understandably relieved after the match.
He told The New Paper: "We scored two quick goals and were in a comfortable position, but credit to them, they capitalised on our mistakes.
"They managed to get back into the game and made it difficult for us but we were able to score a late goal.
"I am pleased with the result."
The win saw them open up a 10-point gap over second-placed Tampines Rovers, but Naruo, 41, refused to get carried away.
He said: "Today was a difficult game and every game from here on will be difficult.
"What is important is not to focus on how many points we are ahead at the top but focus on getting the three points every time we play."
Albirex began the game impressively.
Inui's goals in the 24th and 26th minutes gave them a commanding 2-0 lead, with the Japanese's second strike particularly impressive.
Midfielder Kento Nagasaki released overlapping wingback Naofumi Tanaka, whose drilled cross was then swept home expertly by Inui.
But those who were expecting a routine Albirex win were in for a shock.
The Warriors refused to give up, and were thrown a lifeline 11 minutes later when Nikola Rak was given space to cut onto his left foot before drilling his shot past Albirex custodian, Yosuke Nozawa, who conceded his first goal in eight matches.
The Warriors' resurgence continued in the second half and they were rewarded in the 65th minute, when Frenchman Jonathan Behe curled in an exquisite shot from the edge of the box after being set up by Rak.
Just when it looked like the Warriors had done enough to earn a point, Ishiyama landed a killer blow in the 89th minute.
The second-half substitute beat Warriors centre half Kento Fukuda to fire home.
The Warriors' woes were compounded when skipper Zulfadli Zainal and substitute Ismail Yunos were sent off in stoppage time.
However, Warriors coach Razif Onn, who is still winless after taking over from Jorg Steinebrunner, praised his charges and thought a draw would have been a fair result.
He said: "I thought we deserved a point today. Of all the matches that we have played, today's performance was one of the best.
"There were moments when we produced some good combination play but we were unable to get the end product.
"But I am happy with the team's performance today and we have to work on maintaining it for the full 90 minutes for future games."
LAST NIGHT’S OTHER RESULT
Balestier Khalsa 2 Hougang United 2
Tampines Rovers v Brunei DPMM (8pm, Jurong West Stadium) l Garena Young Lions v Home United (8pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Atsushi Shirota, Kento Fujihara, Tomoki Menda, Shuto Inaba, Kento Nagasaki, Naofumi Tanaka, Tatsuro Inui (Masaya Jitozono 68), Hiroyoshi Kamata (Daichi Ishiyama 77), Atsushi Kawata (Kazuki Mine 83)
WARRIORS: Yazid Yasin, Zulfadli Zainal, Kento Fukuda, Madhu Mohana, Shaiful Esah, Poh Yi Feng (Ismail Yunos 86), Emmeric Ong, Syaqir Sulaiman (Hafiz Sulaiman 72), Ridhuan Muhamad (Hafiz Nor 79), Nikola Rak, Jonathan Behe
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Tatsuro Inui (Albirex Niigata)