Advantage Albirex in Singapore Cup QF tie

Albirex Niigata (S) secured a two-goal lead on aggregate against Geylang International in the Singapore Cup quarter-finals after winning 2-0 in the first leg on Tuesday evening.  

An early goal from Masaya Jitozono set them on their way, as they maintained their perfect record at home after seven games.

Albirex head coach Naoki Naruo made three changes to the line-up, bringing in Kazuki Mine, Daichi Ishiyama and Jitozono in place of Tomoki Menda, Atsushi Kawata and Tatsuro Inui.

The tactical changes proved astute as the trio combined to open the scoring just 12 seconds into the game.

Kazuki Mine nodded on a long punt from Atsushi Shirota to Daichi Ishiyama, who flicked the ball on for Jitozono. The midfielder then escaped Daniel Bennett’s attention, before finishing clinically past Syazwan Buhari to get his team off to a superb start.

Carlos Delgado could have equalised in the ninth minute after Shawal Anuar nicked the ball off Kento Fujihara to create the chance, only to blast the ball over.

The Argentinian did better later when Amy Recha picked him out inside the area, but Yosuke Nozawa made a good save.

By then, the Eagles were matching the White Swans and prevented the hosts from having too much time on the ball.

However, they were unable to find the final pass in the attacking third.

Eight minutes into the second period, the hosts doubled their lead after Kento Nagasaki’s corner was nodded in by Naofumi Tanaka at the back post.

Hasrin responded by throwing on both Mark Hartmann and Sahil Suhaimi in the 62nd minute, and they started to threaten as Albirex begin to sit deeper.

But they found it tough to break down the Japanese side’s backline. Instead, it was Atsushi Kawata who almost extended the hosts’ lead on the counter on two occasions.

A brilliant run from Hartmann in the 78th minute saw the Philippines international creating an opportunity for himself, but his effort was well covered by Nozawa.

Barely 60 seconds later, Safirul Sulaiman was teed up by Shawal, yet Nozawa proved to be a stumbling block once more, as the defending cup champions held up for the two-goal lead on aggregate.

Despite the defeat, Geylang head coach Hasrin Jailani believes that they still stand a good chance in the tie and expressed his belief in his players to overturn the deficit.

He also admitted that the early goal killed off their chances to earn a result.  

“If there wasn’t an early goal, we would have a good chance,” he said.

“Looking at the whole game, the players gave 100%. Only thing we need to do on Friday is to not let them score early.

“When Mark (Hartmann) and Sahil (Suhaimi) came in they changed things a lot in terms of attacking. If you look at it, players did what they supposed to do but the goal came too early for us.

“Second goal was a soft goal from the set-piece. I think we can do much better in terms of defending at set-pieces. If you look at the overall game, we gave them a good fight.”

He added that despite being forced to throw Hartmann earlier than planned, he was still impressed with how well the Filipino did.

“He’s not supposed to go in early but the perspective of the game made me do that,” Hasrin explained.

“I feel very happy for him to get some game time. You can see he’s a player who can contribute something to the team with the quality he has.

“He gives me a good selection headache; I think we can play two upfront right now.”