The Albirex Niigata coach was pleased with their victory against league champions Tampines Rovers and is looking forward to Monday’s showdown to be runners-up against Home United
Goals from Itsuki Yamada, Kazuki Sakamoto and Bruno Castenheira gave the Japanese outfit a commanding lead before Jamil Ali scored a consolation goal for the defeated .
The game was a meaningless one for the Stags as they put in a terrible defensive performance, while the White Swans’ victory keeps them two points behind second-placed Home United with one more game to go.
Unsurprisingly, Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama was pleased with the victory.
“I’m satisfied that we could beat the champions,” he said.
“But Tampines today had some suspended players, so today they didn’t play with their best members. After [becoming] champions, it's very difficult to motivate Tampines (themselves)."
The three points was also significant for Albirex as they go into their final game against Home at Bishan Stadium on Monday knowing a victory would clinch second spot, a potentially historical achievement according to the Japanese coach. And he is confident his players will end the season on a high.
“I think the motivation to finish in second place is a very good thing for us as we can create history by finishing second place,” he stated.
“We will play the next game with the same motivation. We know Home United very well. We have two more training [sessions]. But I think [we will have] no problem. First thing is for us to rest and get rid of fatigue for today.
“Win or lose, I don’t know, but we will do our best."
On the other hand, Tampines coach Tay Peng Kee was calm as ever despite the defeat, understandably so considering they had already sealed the title around two weeks ago.
The 3-1 defeat might have reflected Albirex’s dominance, but Tay did not think it was as bad as it seemed.
"I don’t think that we played so badly,” he said.
“[In the] first half we had three to four chances, [their] goalkeeper made a few saves and we hit the woodwork. I think it is okay.
“But of course the defense lapses caused the two goals and the team got demoralised a little bit [after conceding].”
Still, Tay was disappointed with the nature of how the goals were conceded.
“Our defenders sold themselves,” he lamented.
“They just went in and they missed the ball, and they got caught. Usually we have Kuni [hiro Yamashita] partnering with [Seiji] Kaneko so they understand each other well. [But] Jufri [Taha] is new, so there was a little bit of miscommunication here and there.”
Nevertheless, Tay was relieved that they managed to score at least a consolation goal, despite the difficulty in trying to motivate his team as they are already starting to be distracted with their end-of-season activities.
“Honestly, I hoped that they scored one goal because I don’t want to go back with 3-0,” he admitted.
“We are the top scoring team [and] we cannot go back with no goal. I think I based on the circumstances, it is respectable [result] because Albirex is going for second place; they are going all out, while we are thinking of our holidays.
“In certain ways it is difficult. But if we look at the last 15 minutes the way we are playing, it’s whether they want to or they don’t want to. That is the point.”