Wasps Edged Out By White Swans
Written by: Dwyane James
Albirex Niigata (S) inched closer to retaining the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title after edging Brunei DPMM 1-0 in Bandar Seri Begawan on Saturday night.
Naofumi Tanaka’s first half goal separated the two sides as the White Swans extended their winning streak to 12 games in all competitions.
Albirex went forward immediately at the start and Takuya Akiyama was on target as he forced DPMM goalkeeper Awangku Mu’izzuddin to make a save.
The Japanese side should have gone in front in the 13th minute but Kento Nagasaki’s long range effort came off the underside of the crossbar. Shoichiro Sakamoto raced to the rebound but Mu’izzudin recovered quickly to deny him.
Over at the other end six minutes later, the hosts had an opportunity of their own. Azwan Ali Rahman chipped an onrushing Yosuke Nozawa but the ball was cleared off the line by Tanaka.
The visitors grabbed the lead in the 26th minute after Mu’izzuddin fumbled Nagasaki’s freekick, allowing Tanaka to pounce and score.
They came close to adding a second on the half hour mark but Mu’izzuddin pulled off a great save to keep out Sakamoto’s effort.
Nagasaki hit the target again from inside the area in the 35th minute but it went straight to the DPMM shot-stopper.
Steve Kean’s side came out strongly at the start of the second half in search of an equaliser.
Rafael Ramazotti headed just inches wide off the left post before Adi Said nodded Azwan Ali’s freekick from inside the six-yard box which required a quick reflex save by Nozawa.
The reigning champions had a good chance to double their advantage in the 57th minute after good ball movement to work the ball into the box but Nagasaki somehow poked his shot wide from six yards out.
Skipper Rosmin Kamis then came to the rescue of DPMM in the 71st minute as he cleared Sakomoto’s header off the line.
DPMM head coach Steve Kean made a last throw of the dice by throwing on the duo of Shahrazen Said and Daud Gazale in the final 20 minutes.
Ramazotti could have snatched one point out of the encounter in the final minute but his acrobatic effort went over as Albirex hung on for their 16th win of the season.
The result meant Albirex are now 12 points clear of nearest challengers Tampines Rovers, albeit with two games in hand. DPMM meanwhile, remain in eighth with five points from 16 matches.
Brunei DPMM Head Coach Steve Kean: “I’m proud of the players, the way we played. Albirex are at the top of the table and a long way in front. I don’t think that showed tonight against us. We probably had better chances than them but it didn’t fall for us.
“But the way we controlled the game and it looked like at times Albirex were afraid. As soon we got the ball in the wide areas, we were a threat all night.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “We predicted it will be a tough game. Luckily we had a goal through a setplay and our defence concentrated a lot to make sure they didn’t score.
“In (Rafael) Ramazotti, we knew they had a strong focal point in attack so we concentrated on clearing the crosses from both sides.”
Brunei DPMM: Awangku Mu'izzuddin (GK), Helmi Zambin, Rosmin Kamis (C), Yura Indera Putera (Reduan Petara 74’), Abdul Mu'iz Sisa, Hanif Hamir, Azwan Saleh, Azwan Ali (Daud Gazale 78’), Nurikhwan Othman, Rafael Ramazotti, Adi Said (Shahrazen Said 78’)
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Rui Kumada (Tomoki Menda 75’), Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Shoma Kondo 90’), Shoichiro Sakamoto (Koki Sato 90’)