RHB Singapore Cup Final: White Swans Complete Unprecedented Quadruple
Written by: Sebastian Lim
Albirex Niigata (S) were crowned champions of the RHB Singapore Cup for the second year running after beating Tampines Rovers 2-0 in front of a 4,928-strong crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.
With the result, the White Swans became the first side in league history to win every piece of silverware that was on offer this season, having already won the Community Shield, The New Paper League Cup and the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League.
A first-half blunder from Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud gifted Atsushi Kawata with the opener, before Kento Nagasaki wrapped up the victory for Albirex three minutes from time.
Tampines started the match strongly and had the first sighting of goal after seven minutes when Shahdan Sulaiman released Hafiz Abu Sujad down the left but the latter skied his effort from inside the box.
At the other end, Hiroyoshi Kamata could have put Albirex in front on 16 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball but scuffed a shot wide despite being unmarked.
The deadlock was however broken in the 28th minute when Kawata stabbed home after an uncharacteristic error from Izwan who had allowed a pass to roll across the face of his goal.
The Stags nearly pulled level four minutes later but Irwan Shah hit a tame shot straight at Yosuke Nozawa off a cutback from Jordan Webb who would then fire into the side-netting just before half-time.
Immediately after the restart, Kawata almost made it two goals to the good for Albirex but the 24-year-old was foiled by a full-stretch Izwan who dived to his right to parry his effort.
Still finding themselves trailing by a goal, the Stags pushed forward in search of the equaliser with Ismadi Mukhtar, Mustafic Fahrudin and Shahdan all having attempts on goal but were unable to trouble Albirex skipper Nozawa.
Tampines then came closest to scoring in the 84th minute when Webb rose highest to meet substitute Jermaine Pennant’s freekick, only to send a header just over the bar.
They were made to rue that miss as it was game, set and match with three minutes remaining.
A quick Albirex counter saw Daichi Ishiyama race down the left before he crossed the ball into the box for an unmarked Nagasaki to send a looping header over Izwan to complete the scoring for Albirex.
Albirex Niigata (S) coach Naoki Naruo: “I knew it would be a tough game tonight but we learnt from our defeats in our last two games where we conceded eight goals in the last two games. I changed the formation today as we improved the defence and prevented Tampines from attacking.
“It’s very important that we challenge [for honours]. We must improve and become one of the important clubs in Singapore.
Tampines Rovers coach Akbar Nawas: “It’s very disappointing of course. To concede first in a Cup final, it was not easy as we had to play catch up and dampened the spirits [of the players].
“We were obviously susceptible to the second goal. Albirex were compact today and it was not easy to get back from there. It would have been a different story had we put away the chances we created.”
“It’s not a bad season at all, especially when you lead a team you put up for the first time to come so far.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK, C), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Atsushi Shirota, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Tomoki Menda, Kento Nagasaki (Masaya Jitozono 90’), Atsushi Kawata, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Daichi Ishiyama 64’), Rui Kumada (Kazuki Mine 80’) Tampines Rovers:
Izwan Mahbud (GK, C), Ismadi Mukhtar, Fahrudin Mustafic, Yasir Hanapi (Jermaine Pennant 68’), Shahdan Sulaiman, Jordan Webb, Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah (Afiq Yunos 83’), Billy Mehmet