Protectors Share Spoils With White Swans
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Substitute Adam Swandi cancelled out Naofumi Tanaka’s early opener as Home United held Great Eastern-Hyundai leaders Albirex Niigata (S) to a 1-1 draw at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday night.
The result meant the White Swans still have a 16 point lead over the Protectors, albeit having played four games more.
Albirex got off to a flying start after three minutes when Tanaka’s powerful left-footed drive flew past Hassan Sunny at his near post for his fifth goal in the S.League.
The visitors could have doubled their lead with two chances shortly after the opener but Shoichiro Sakamoto was denied by Hassan before Kento Nagasaki’s effort was hacked off the line by Hariss Harun.
Home conjured their first chance of note in the game on 15 minutes but Faris Ramli’s attempt was unable to trouble Albirex custodian Yosuke Nozawa.
In arguably the best chance of the half for Home, Plazibat then fired straight at Nozawa after being slipped through by Sufianto Salleh in the 36th minute.
Home almost restored parity on the stroke of half time, but Nozawa once again denied Plazibat after the Croatian had gotten a touch on Faris Ramli’s low cross.
Aidil Sharin’s side came out of the break with more vigour and almost pulled level in the 48th minute.
However, Adam’s header off Plazibat’s freekick was kept out by Nozawa at point-blank.
It was end-to-end thereafter as both sides had a number of goalscoring opportunities but failed to put the ball in the back of the net.
Nozawa was finally beaten on 72 minutes when his defence failed to clear their lines from a Plazibat freekick. It allowed Adam to fire a volley that took a deflection which flew over the wrongfooted Albirex goalkeeper to make it 1-1.
Nagasaki nearly put the White Swans in the lead again with a 20-yard freekick on 78 minutes but it was clawed away by a flying Hassan.
Home piled on the pressure in the closing stages and were nearly rewarded with the winner.
First, Faris headed wide off Juma’at Jantan’s cross at the far post nine minutes from time before the latter saw his shot blocked by Tanaka on the line moments later.
The woodwork then came to the rescue of Albirex in the dying moments of the game, with Faris’ shot from distance coming off the foot of the post.
The full time whistle went soon after, as the shares were spoiled with Albirex seeing their 12-match winning run in all competitions come to an end.
With the result, Albirex - who are 10 points clear of second-placed Tampines Rovers - are on 50 points from 20 games while Home have 34 from 16 matches.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “We were sloppy in the first-half but the boys gave everything in the second. I motivated the boys after the game but there’s nothing we can now except to look forward to the next game against Geylang.
“There’s still a few more games left in the league and anything can happen. We are definitely not going to throw in the towel just yet. We are not going to give up which is the mentality of this club.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “We came back from Brunei on Sunday with only two days of rest and this schedule was hard considering the travelling. But since this is the schedule, we just have to accept but tried to play for a win in this match.
“The players worked very hard today and they put in a solid performance showing. We analysed Home and knew they are good at counter and from set-plays so we tried to defend against that.
“Hopefully other teams can watch how we defended against Home today and learn some lessons from it.”
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Juma'at Jantan, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Sufianto Salleh, Khairul Nizam (Adam Swandi 20’), Song Uiyoung (Amiruldin Asraf 87’), Izzdin Shafiq, Aqhari Abdullah (Iqram Rifqi 64’), Faris Ramli, Stipe Plazibat
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Tomoki Menda, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda (Rui Kumada 59’), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Yuuki Yamanouchi 77’)