White Swans Come From Behind To Hold Protectors
Written by: Ryan Low
Defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) came from two goals down to hold Home United to a 2-2 draw in an exciting Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League match at the Bishan Stadium on Saturday night.
It looked like Home United were cruising to victory after goals from Stipe Plazibat and Faris Ramli in quick succession in the first-half.
However, Albirex pulled one back before half-time through Tsubasa Sano, before Kento Nagasaki converted from the spot late on to ensure the visitors went home with a point.
The Protectors held the upper hand in terms of possession and creating opportunities in the first-half, but had to wait till the 33rd minute to open the scoring.
Hariss Harun – making his first appearance for the club since his high-profile loan move from Johor Darul Ta’zim – flicked on Izzdin Shafiq’s inswinging corner into the path of Plazibat, who toe-poked home for his seventh goal of the season.
Aidil Sharin’s side doubled their lead three minutes later, with Faris sweeping home Song Uiyoung’s low ball from the left past Albirex custodian Yosuke Nozawa.
That goal stung the visitors into action as they gradually settled into the game and grabbed a lifeline just before half time.
After a good passing move, forward Sano found space to drill home a stunning drive from a tight angle past a helpless Hassan Sunny in the Home goal.
Home continued to dominate proceedings in the second half but were unable to put their chances away, with substitute Shamil Sharif and Izzdin volleying over from range.
Smelling a chance of a comeback, Albirex pushed forward in the final 20 minutes and got their rewards in the 88th minute.
After Sano was fell in the box by Sirina Camara, the long-serving Nagasaki sent Hassan the wrong way from the spot to level matters for the White Swans.
Albirex could even have snatched victory right at the death, but Nagasaki could only thrash wide with just Hassan to beat.
Both sides had to eventually settle for a point each, with Albirex remaining top of the table with 10 points from four games while Home stayed in second with seven points from three matches.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “The performance could have been better, to be honest. The problem lies with conceding late in the first half after leading 2-0. Pressure always come in big games like this and we have to learn to cope with it better.
“Still, I cannot fault the players’ effort and commitment. They (the majority) were away for national team duty for two weeks, had one day’s rest and only had one training session before this game. We have seven crucial games in the month of April and I need to manage the players properly.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “In the first half, I probably made mistakes in some of my tactical decisions. In the second half, I made some adjustments and the players worked very hard in attack to get back the goals.
“A draw is a good result for us, at least we didn’t get zero points from this game. It’s still quite long to go for the season, so I’m more concerned about how we play and how we can improve for now.”
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Juma’at Jantan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Irfan Fandi, Sirina Camara, Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq, Khairul Nizam (Shamil Sharif 46’), Song Uiyoung, Faris Ramli (Adam Swandi 60’), Stipe Plazibat (Aqhari Abdullah 89’)
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Takuya Akiyama, Yasutaka Yanagi, Naofumi Tanaka, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Rui Kumada 80’), Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryuya Motoda, Ryota Nakai, Tsubasa Sano (Koki Sato 90’), Shoichiro Sakamoto (Tomoki Menda 59’)