Steve Kean oversaw victory on his S.League debut as his side edged Albirex Niigata 1-0 thanks to the Brazilian's spot-kick early in the first half
It wasn’t the greatest start to the season for ambitious Japanese side Albirex Niigata (Singapore) on Saturday night at Jurong East Stadium, as they fell to visiting Brunei DPMM 1-0 in front of 1,818 fans.
Both teams had new coaches, with Scotsman Steve Kean in the DPMM dugout new to the S.League altogether. His opposite number, Tatsuyuki Okuyama, had been assistant-coach for the new-look home team the previous season.
Even without regular goalkeeper, the suspended Wardun Yussof, DPMM looked assured at the back and had few problems dealing with anything the Albirex attack could conjure up, much of it coming through shots from outside the penalty area.
DPMM’s one retained foreign player, Rodrigo Tosi, may have looked a little burly at his first outing of the season, but he was to prove the thorn in the side of the young Japanese team.
Even as early as the first minute, he signalled his intentions with a rapid-fire shot from inside the six yard box that went narrowly wide.
He went close again in the eighth minute as the visitors enjoyed a brisk and lively passage of play over the opening ten minutes of the match.
Within 15 minutes, Tosi had troubled the White Swans defenders once too often, earning himself a penalty after getting on the end of a smart passing move that took him one-on-one with goalkeeper Kazuki Kishigami.
As Tosi attempted to move past the young custodian, the Albirex man brushed against him, impeding his progress. Referee Ahmad A’Qashah immediately pointed to the spot.
Tosi took the kick himself and cleverly found the bottom right corner, deceiving Kishigami, who dived to his left in vain.
Albirex rallied as the game progressed, but showed some uncertainty at the back as DPMM’s pressing game broke up their fluid passing patterns and defensive misunderstandings began to creep into their play.
Brunei’s stand-in goalkeeper Azman Ilham did his chances of retaining the top spot no harm with some smart saves, especially in the first half.
He reacted well to a clever chipped effort by Hiroki Morisaki in the 31st minute, reading the danger well and being perfectly placed to make the save. Two minutes later, he saw a free-kick from Kento Nagasaki just in time to pull off a superb save.
Meanwhile, Albirex forced a multiplicity of corners and the odd free-kick, but none really worried DPMM enough.
Albirex finished the game off well enough, but could not penetrate, failing also to capitalise on their greater share of possession and corners, though perhaps they could have felt they deserved at least one point.