The Japanese side saw off the Young Tigers thanks to a much-improved second-half performance to move two points behind leaders Tampines Rovers
A second-half finish by Bruno Castanheira was enough to give the Japanese side their fifth 1-0 win of the season.
It was all Harimau Muda in the opening 10 minutes of the game, and the Malaysian side could have been a goal up inside the first minute.
Maxsius Musa proved why he is the Tigers’ most dangerous player after creating space for himself in the box before unleashing a curler that hit the outside of the post.
Harimau looked the hungrier and more inventive of the two sides and an ambitious long-range effort from Akmal Ishak five minutes later looped over Albirex goalkeeper Hiroaki Hara but crashed back off the crossbar.
The Japanese side was struggling in the early stages of the game and it was hard to tell they were above Harimau in the league standings.
And Maxsius should have given Razip Ismail‘s side the lead after being put through on goal from a long ball, but Hara was quick off his line to thwart him.
Hafizul Hakim was hardly tested in goal for the Young Tigers until five minutes before the break when defender Kento Fukuda’s powerful drive was tipped over by the Malaysian custodian.
Koichi Sugiyama’s half-time team-talk clearly shook the White Swans, as they regained their attacking, fluid self after the break.
And they created more chances in the opening 10 minutes of the restart than they had in the entire first-half.
The best chance fell to Fukuda in the 52nd minute as the defender somehow missed the target after being found completely unmarked in the box from a corner.
But Albirex’s attacking efforts paid off five minutes later. Castanheira was put through on goal with a defence-splitting pass and the striker calmly slid the ball home to give his team the lead.
It was all Albirex in the second-half as Harimau failed to replicate their performance in the first, but Sugiyama’s side simply could not find the second goal to kill off the game.
They were nearly punished in stoppage time when Syawal Nordin’s stunning volley was tipped over by Hara, but they survived a nervous end to the game and collected all three points to move up to second.