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Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama apologised for Kunihiro Yamashita's head-butt on Faizal Amir, while also admitting it will be 'difficult' for his side to win the title.

One would have expected Albirex Niigata (S) coach Koichi Sugiyama to have touched more on his team’s loss to Hougang United after the game, a result which dealt a huge blow to their dreams of landing a first-ever S.League title.

Instead, Sugiyama spoke at length about centreback Kunihiro Yamashita's sending off for a head-butt on Faizal Amir in the closing stages of the game, as he apologised for the incident.

“Firstly, I have to say that I am sorry because Yamashita's behavior was not professional. For that, I am sorry. As for any punishment by the club, I am not sure yet. But because of his sending off, we had to play with only ten players, and that was very difficult."

Explaining why he was so upset, Sugiyama said: “I told my players [in the post-match briefing] that Yamashita's behavior was not that of a professional player. Because of that, I feel very disappointed .We always have to play to the values of football, regardless of whether we win or lose the game.”

Sugiyama eventually spoke about his team's slim title chances, although he claimed that his side were not ready to give up the fight just yet.

“I think that to win the title is a bit difficult, for now. But we still have a few more games to play, so as long as we still have a chance, we will keep playing.”

His opposite number Nenad Bacina was all smiles, as he expressed belief that his team had improved tremendously in the second round of the S.league.

The Croat felt that the victory over Albirex was not a one-off, but simply a continuation of their good run of form in the league.

“We are currently playing very well in the whole season, and even in the last few matches, we drew with Home United, Tampines Rovers and Gombak United. We dominated in those matches, but somehow we were... not clinical enough to finish the game and collect three points.”

“Tonight's match is a product of the good run from previous matches, and this is one step forward for us. This is what I am asking [of] my players every time, so I am using this opportunity to thank them for accepting my philosophy,” Bacina added.

A delighted Bacina also pointed out that Hougang were amongst a handful of clubs to have come away with three points against the White Swans at their home ground.

“My job is to predict how the opponent will play and we predicted Albirex's tactics [correctly] for the game," he elaborated.

“We know how good Albirex is, and not many teams are able to come to Jurong East Stadium and score three goals. We made it tonight, and I am very happy for my players.”