Valiant Young Lions Fall To Narrow Defeat
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Albirex Niigata (S) resumed their Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title charge after a narrow 1-0 victory over Garena Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
Shuto Inaba’s first half strike proved to be the difference as the defending champions went 13 points clear of second-placed Home United who beat Brunei DPMM 4-1 in the other game played on the same day.
Young Lions took the game to the visitors from the get go and came close to taking the lead on 14 minutes but Haiqal Pashia’s effort from outside the box sailed narrowly over.
Kento Nagasaki then fired a snapshot straight at Zharfan Rohaizad in the 21st minute before Rusyaidi Salime curled one which whistled wide of Shuhei Yamada’s right-hand post at the other end moments later.
The deadlock was however broken three minutes after the half-hour mark as skipper Inaba played a quick one-two with Hiroyoshi Kamata before lashing an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
Goalscoring opportunities dried up for both sides thereafter as the White Swans took a handy one-goal lead into the break.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side were however reduced to ten men in the 51st minute when hotshot Tsubasa Sano was shown a straight red for an off-the-ball incident.
As was the case in the first half, Albirex continued to dominate proceedings but were unable to breach the Young Lions backline led by captain Illyas Lee and Amirul Adli.
Nagasaki had a couple of half-chances which failed to trouble Zharfan but that was about the White Swans could conjure in the second half.
Sensing blood, the hosts nearly levelled matters 12 minutes from time but right-back Rusyaidi Salime was denied by a full-stretch Yamada who tipped his fierce shot over for a corner.
Lee had another chance but saw his effort blocked in the 82nd minute and it was not to be the Young Lions’ night as Albirex hung on for their 15th win of the season.
With the result, Albirex stay perched at the summit with 46 points after 18 games while Young Lions remain in ninth with three from 14 games.
Garena Young Lions Head Coach Vincent Subramaniam: “It has been a difficult three months for most of these boys and I had to lift up their spirits and motivate them although there is still a lot of work to do.
“It’s not easy to play against some teams who are down to 10 men as they play even better which was what happened today. We definitely can learn some lessons from them.
“We play Tampines next, another strong side in Singapore on Tuesday and I am hoping for a similar performance and a positive result.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “After taking the lead, we went on to look for the second but couldn’t get going. Our problem today was that our attack wasn’t smooth enough and we made things difficult for ourselves.
“But the second half was better as we defended well and I’m happy with that aspect. It was good that I was able to give some game time to my second-choice goalkeeper (Shuhei) Yamada and with more practice, I believe he will give us another option (in between the sticks).”
Garena Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Rusyaidi Salime, Illyas Lee (C), Amirul Adli, Syahrul Sazali (Faizal Roslan 52’), Muhaimin Suhaimi, Ammirul Emmran (Joshua Pereira 72’), Muhelmy Suhaimi, Haiqal Pashia, Taufik Suparno (Jordan Chan 83’), Zulqarnaen Suzliman
Albirex Niigata (S): Shuhei Yamada (GK), Rui Kumada (Tomoki Menda 90’), Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda (Yuuki Yamanouchi 75’), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Shoichiro Sakamoto 88’), Tsubasa Sano