A five-goal thriller on Friday night was won by the Japanese side despite a late surge from their opponents, as they kept the pressure on leaders Tampines Rovers
|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Eddie Ridzwan
Albirex Niigata (S) underlined their superiority as they overcame Warriors FC 3-2 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
The Japanese team largely dominated the first hour of the game but a resilient Warriors side put up tough resistance as they finally showed up in the final half hour.
Kento Nagasaki had the game’s first two clear chances when he dispossessed Shi Jiayi and then proceeded to shoot wide of Hassan Sunny’s goal. Shortly after, Nagasaki was fed the ball in a similar position but could once again only fire off target.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 25th minute when Shingo Suzuki confidently whipped in a freekick from 35 yards. Hassan got a touch but it wasn’t enough to keep the viciously swerving strike out, as the power of the shot beat him.
Suzuki had the chance to double his team’s lead just before the stroke of halftime, but his freekick went straight into the wall.
The second half started with as much intensity as the first did, and the White Swans doubled their lead with only two minutes played.
A neat interchange of passes between Bruno Castanheira, Takeshi Nagasawa and finally Kazuki Sakamoto unsettled the Warriors’ defence, and ended with Sakamoto rifling a low shot past Hassan from a narrow angle.
The two-goal lead did not last long as Marin Vidosevic rose highest to head home a corner from Shi in the 48th minute to put the Warriors back into the game.
However, their joy was shortlived as they conceded a penalty just before the hour mark when Zulfadli Zainal Abidin brought down an onrushing Casteinheira inside the penalty box. Casteinheira confidently dispatched his penalty underneath Hassan, who had guessed the right way.
Ten minutes later, Warriors won a penalty of their own when Hiroaki Hara was deemed to have brought down substitute Sufian Anuar in the penalty box. Mislav Karoglan stepped up to send Hara the wrong way to set up a tense final 20 minutes.
Karoglan had a chance late in the game when he won the ball from Hara, but failed to curl his shot in from the tightest of angles.
Despite a few scares in the dying minutes, Albirex hung on for their eighth win of the season to close the gap between them and league leaders Tampines Rovers to two points.