Albirex regain their perch

Albirex regain their perch

The foreign domination of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) may continue for a fifth successive season, despite the withdrawal of champions Brunei DPMM FC.

But Geylang International coach Noor Ali was less than impressed with Albirex Niigata’s style of play after watching his side fall 1-0 to the Japanese side yesterday.

The result saw Albirex return to the top of the table on 17 points from eight games and leapfrog Tampines Rovers on goal difference.

Noor, however, suggested that Albirex are no longer playing the brand of football that displaced DPMM in 2016 and won them two more titles.

“We did not expect Albirex to keep pumping long balls like this,” he said.

“This is not the same flowing football we looked up to when they won the league from 2016 to 2018.”

The Eagles got off to a nightmarish start when skipper Yuki Ichikawa fouled Ryoya Taniguchi after being pickpocketed by the Albirex midfielder. From the resulting third-minute free kick, Tomoyuki Doi beat Hairul Syirhan at the near post for his sixth goal of the season and the winner.

However, Geylang, who left their trio of national forwards Khairul Nizam, Fareez Farhan and Iqbal Hussain on the bench to fulfil the Under-23 quota, did not buckle, and were unlucky not to score before the break.

They responded almost immediately with a good break down the left, but Harith Kanadi’s shot flashed just wide. Firdaus Kasman and Barry Maguire also tested Kei Okawa, but lacked power and direction to beat the Albirex goalkeeper.

Noor threw on Nizam and Iqbal at the start of the second half and also Fareez later on. But the elusive equaliser just would not come, despite the hosts seizing the initiative in the second stanza.

Nizam headed over Harith’s cross in the 57th minute, while Iqbal glided past the Albirex defence only to be stopped by Okawa in the 87th minute as the White Swans held on.​

    SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

    Geylang 0 Albirex Niigata 1

A DIFFERENT GAME

We did not expect Albirex to keep pumping long balls like this. This is not the same flowing football we looked up to when they won the league from 2016 to 2018.

NOOR ALI,
Geylang coach, on Albirex Niigata’s style of play this season.

Noor bemoaned the early lapse but was pleased with how his men responded.

Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi was also happy with his side, praising his players for showing the necessary fighting spirit to rebound from last month’s 2-0 loss to Tampines at the same venue.

He said: “This is always a difficult ground to come to. I agree our performance is not great, but sometimes you have to find ways to win, and we did that tonight.

“We are not thinking about the title yet, what is more important is that we focus on getting the three points in the next game.”

In the other SPL match of the night, the Lion City Sailors kept up the pressure on the leaders by thumping Tanjong Pagar United 6-1 at Bishan Stadium to stay third with 14 points.

Geylang are sixth with 10 points, seven in front of the winless Jaguars in the eight-team SPL.