After a lackluster first half, the uniformed giants came back from a goal down to equalise before two late goals sealed the win and compounded the Japanese side’s misery
Two goals in the last 10 minutes gave Warriors FC a resounding 3-1 win over Albirex Niigata on Friday night at the Jurong East Stadium and extended the hosts' winless run to eight games.
After a drab opening half, Albirex drew first blood early in the second period from Bruno Castanheira’s strike. That sparked the Warriors to action as they stormed back with goals from Sufian Anuar, Mislav Karoglan and Shi Jiayi.
The Japanese side started the game barely hanging on to second place in the S.League table, after a poor run of results of five draws and two losses in the last seven games. The Warriors, on the other hand, had been on a good run of form after a poor start to the season.
If there ever was an air of excitement prior to kickoff, it faded as soon as the match started as both teams were very lackluster.
The fans started to get restless as both teams were rather casual on the ball. There was barely any penetration from both sides as they failed to find a breakthrough in each other’s defense.
Albirex’s best chance of the half came only after 30 minutes when midfielder Kento Nagasaki's shot from outside the penalty box drifted just wide off the post.
On the opposing end, the closest the Warriors came to scoring was when Karoglan reached the end of Daniel Bennett’s cross and headed the ball towards the goal, but Albirex goalkeeper Hiroaki Hara managed to punch the ball to safety.
That was about as much goalmouth action there was in the first half, but thankfully the game finally came to life in the second half.
In the 49th minute, a through ball released Nagasaki and his shot beat Hassan Sunny but came back off the post. Warriors didn’t head the warning sign as two minutes later, Castanheira beat three Warriors defenders and struck a fantastic curling effort beyond the reach of Hassan.
Albirex were threatening to run away with the game, but the Warriors dragged themselves back thanks to substitute Sufian Anuar.
Within six minutes of coming on, Sufian tapped in from close range after Tatsuro Inui did extremely well to get to the byline and square the ball to him.
It was end-to-end action after that as both teams went in search for the winner, with Albirex wasting a host of chances. The White Swans were then made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when Warriors took the lead in the 83rd minute via a set-piece.
Shi Jiayi’s chipped freekick into the penalty box found Karoglan, whose looping header beat Hara and ended in the back of the net.
Albirex then huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser and Itsuki Yamada thought he had rescued a point for his team in additional time, but it was not to be as the linesman flagged him offside.
Their misery was compounded when a quick counter-attack from Warriors right at the death saw Sufian cross the ball for Shi to hit the ball beyond Hara.
The result leaves Albirex 14 points adrift of league leaders Tampines Rovers, and their title dream is now all but over.