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  • May 24, 2013
  • • 19:30
  • • Jurong East Stadium, Singapore
  • Referee: S. Singh

Albirex Niigata seal comeback victory over Hougang United

Sakamoto nets brace in White Swans comeback victory over Cheetahs

Albirex Niigata seal comeback victory over Hougang United

Muhammad Farhan

The Japanese striker led his side to all three points by firing in two goals as they recovered from going a goal down to do the double over their opponents

Albirex Niigata overcame a slow start to down Hougang United 2-1 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.

In doing so, they completed a double over their opponents, whom they had beaten 1-0 on the same ground at the beginning of March.

For a while it had looked as if the Cheetahs might exact revenge, as they punished a sluggish-looking Albirex by taking the lead after only 18 minutes.

The White Swans had been playing the ball around at the back, as is their custom, but without the necessary degree of care; before they conceded there had already been an instance or two of potential danger through interceptions by a thoroughly "wired" group of Cheetahs.

The White Swans were behind after goalkeeper Hiroaki Hara, restored to the starting eleven after a first-half "rest" the previous week, sent a clearance directly to Azhar Sairudin, on the Hougang left and 40 yards out from goal.

Azhar played the ball through to Nurhilmi Jasni, who was in turn able to play it on to Mamadou Diallo, despite the close attentions of an Albirex defender.

Diallo was able to beat the goalkeeper with a very cool finish to put his side one up.

Albirex had appeared comfortable up to that point, so the goal had come a little against the run of play.

Undeterred by the setback, the White Swans began to make their passing game count by moving it into their opponents’ last defensive third of the field.

They began to pile on further pressure and had a goal disallowed in the 28th minute for offside when their lively attacker, Bruno Castanheira, fell foul of the assistant’s flag by the slimmest of margins as he majestically steered the ball past Fadhil Salim after a pinpoint cross from the left by Itsuki Yamada.

Two minutes later, Castanheira fired inches wide after another telling cross from the same player.

But the tide was to prove too strong for Hougang to turn back and Albirex were able to equalise in the 41st minute.

Castanheira kept the ball in play out on the right touchline after a Hougang player had looked ready to concede a throw.

Some swift passing moves from out wide allowed for returning midfielder Masatake Sato to lay on a perfect pass for top-scorer Kazuki Sakamoto, who found the net after his shot had cannoned in off the inside of the left-hand upright.

Albirex further controlled the game after the break and took the lead in the 58th minute when Castanheira got the better of his man out wide on the right, before slipping the ball through to Sakamoto. Once more, the smart finisher made no mistake from eight yards to complete his side's comeback victory.