Another tepid and worrying display from Albirex Niigata sees them pick up only two points in the last two games against the league’s whipping boys
However, an insipid display was again on show by the Japanese outfit as they struggled to break down a CYL outfit which had been buoyed by recent encouraging performances and positive results. The White Swans’ actually started the better of the two sides and came close to scoring as early as the 10th minute as Toshikazu Soya controlled a throw-in on his chest before turning Sirina Camara far too easily as if he was non-existent. However, his left-footed shot was always rising and was witnessed to safety by the home team custodian, Syazwan Buhari.
In truth, the young CYL team did their best to disrupt the White Swans’ from stamping their authority on the game via plenty of hard running and crunching tackles. And one such tackle from Shahfiq Ghani did not go too well with referee Mohd Taqi who brandished a yellow card for the young playmaker as early as the 13th minute. However, their endeavour was rewarded in the 18th minute when they were awarded a free-kick near the halfway line which was whipped in with pace. In the ensuing panic, midfielder Shuhei Hotta could only slice his clearance towards the top corner of the goal with his goalkeeper well and truly beaten.
With a goal to protect, one would expect the home team to double dig in and intensify or at least maintain their impressive pressing game. However, the young team showed every inch of their youthful immaturity as they allowed midfielder Musashi Okyuyama to glide past the midfield like a hot knife through butter. Faced with just the central defence, he threaded a pass to Toshikazu Soya who made amends for his earlier miss with a swivel past his marker and a left-footed shot beyond the despairing dive of the goalkeeper and into the far corner. It was a finish which the marksman would have been proud of and which was reminiscent of Didier Drogba’s goal in the FA Cup Final the morning before.
As the half drew to a close, Albirex slowly began to dictate the proceedings and fashioned out a few half-chances which were either wide off-target or comfortably gathered by Syazwan Bukhari. Undoubtedly, Koichi Sugiyama’s halftime team talk would have seen him encourage his charges to continue where they left off and seize the initiative. And his team duly complied with a sustained period of pressure that saw the home defence scrambling to clear the ball in panic on more than a few occasions.
However, it was CYL who registered the clearest chance of the second half as winger Faris Ramli ran head-on towards his marker, cut inside, and created a yard of space for himself before delivering a left-footed grounder which goalkeeper Takuma Ito did well to tip onto the post before gathering on the second attempt. That opportunity seemed to rock the White Swans who promptly signalled their attacking intent by bringing on the club’s top goal-scorer Yasuhiro Yamakoshi for midfielder Masatake Sato in the 70th minute.
His introduction, however, failed to lift his team-mates and it was CYL who ended the game the more enterprising and threatening side. With youthful pace and dynamism to tap onto, they broke past the tiring White Swans’ defence on a number of occasions. One such incursion saw the eccentric Sherif El-Masri, who came on as a substitute for the disappointing Fazli Ayob, deliver a low grounder across the face of goal for Jonathan Toto to run onto. Just when he seemed odds-on to score his sixth goal of the season, the lanky forward failed to control the pass and the opportunity was lost.
Before the game ended, one last chance from CYL saw defender Sirina Camara burst down the left flank before cutting the ball across the face of goal for rampaging substitute Nigel Vanu. Just when the home crowd thought that they had managed to defy all odds by begging all three points, they were eventually left disappointed as the shot narrowly missed wide of the target.
And when referee Mohd Taqi blew his whistle signalling the end of the game, the home team exchanged high-fives with one another while the White Swans hung their head in despair. And with a grand total of two points from whipping boys Geylang United and CYL, they indeed have plenty to despair.