Now Albirex Niigata goes top of the S.League
Japanese side eke out tough win over plucky Young Lions
COURTS YOUNG LIONS 0
ALBIREX NIIGATA 1
(Rion Taki 37)
There appears to be a game of musical chairs going on at the top of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
Just 24 hours after Brunei DPMM climbed to the summit with a 3-1 win over Geylang International, Albirex Niigata knocked them off the perch after beating the Courts Young Lions 1-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
The two foreign sides, along with defending champions Warriors FC, have taken turns occupying top spot in recent weeks.
Albirex, however, have played 16 matches, two more than their title rivals.
Speaking after their latest win, White Swans coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama said: "I don't feel any pressure (with regard) to the table
"I'm very happy with the result today, especially with the clean sheet. We could have scored more goals, but 1-0 was enough.
"So, overall, I'm happy."
A 37th-minute goal by Rion Taki was enough to hand Albirex the three points last night.
Playmaker Fumiya Kogure, who was the main man again for the Japanese outfit, had come close with a shot, after six minutes, that came off the upright.
He turned provider half an hour later when he played Taki through to slot home his sixth S.League goal of the season.
Canadian winger Jordan Webb came close to an equaliser for the Young Lions in the 60th minute when he cut inside his marker and unleashed a shot which cannoned off the angle of post and bar, and out to safety.
Albirex could have added a second when Atsushi Kawata powered down the right wing and crossed for an unmarked Rui Kumada, but the striker saw his point-blank effort saved by sprawling Young Lions goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah.
Young Lions interim coach Juergen Raab was proud of his charges despite the defeat.
Said the German: "As a coach, it is easy to say you are proud of your team after a win or a draw, but I am proud tonight.
"You look at the schedule and we have played six matches (since the S.League resumed on July 20), with one game every three days.
"On Monday, we played in Malacca (beating Harimau Muda 3-2) and after the match, in the bus back, from 10pm to 3am nobody could sleep... There comes a point we lack a bit of freshness and there is not enough concentration.
"But I am happy with what we delivered against the best ball-playing team in the S.League."
In last night's other match, Home United beat Harimau Muda 4-2 for their first league win in five matches.
The Protectors led 3-0 at half-time at the Yishun Stadium after early goals by Stanely Ng (third minute), Kamel Ramdani (13th min) and Ken Ilso (14th min).
But they allowed the Malaysian youngsters to pull two goals back via a quickfire double from Faizat Ghazli (55th and 57th mins).
After a nervy final half-hour, Imran Sahib ended any hopes of a Harimau fightback with a goal in the 86th minute.
- TNP Man of the Match: Fumiya Kogure (Albirex)
- YOUNG LIONS: Rudy Khairullah, Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Amirul Adli, Shameer Aziq (Farhan Rahmat 46), Ammirul Emmran, Afiq Mat Noor (M Anumanthan 68), Suria Prakash (Danial Razali 59), Adam Swandi, Amy Recha, Jordan Webb.
- ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Kento Fujihara, Itsuki Yamada, Shun Inaba, Hukaru Mizuno, Atsushi Kawata (Yusuke Mukai 84), Fumiya Kogure, Rion Taki, Rui Kumada (Shotaro Ihata 72).
"We have played six matches (since the S.League resumed on July 20), with one game every three days. On Monday, weplayed in Malacca and, after the match in the bus back, from10pm to 3am nobody could sleep... There comes a point we lack a bit of freshness and there is not enough concentration."
— Courts Young Lions interim coach Juergen Raab