Football: Title puts Albirex in sight of history

Albirex players celebrating after their 2-0 victory against Brunei DPMM yesterday to clinch The New Paper League Cup. The victory was the White Swans' second title of the season, after the Community Shield.
Albirex players celebrating after their 2-0 victory against Brunei DPMM yesterday to clinch The New Paper League Cup. The victory was the White Swans' second title of the season, after the Community Shield.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

White Swans' coach not thinking about clean sweep despite 2-0 win to clinch League Cup

Albirex Niigata are now halfway to a historic quadruple of all four local football trophies after they clinched The New Paper League Cup last night.

The White Swans defeated Brunei DPMM 2-0 through goals from Rui Kumada (42nd) and Atsushi Kawata (80th) for their second trophy this season. It was their third League Cup triumph at Jalan Besar Stadium after previous triumphs in 2011 and 2015. They also beat DPMM 3-2 in February to clinch the Community Shield.

Albirex currently lead the S-League table by four points and are still in the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup although coach Naoki Naruo is not predicting a clean sweep yet.

He said: "Winning this title means we can focus more now on the S-League and the Singapore Cup. I don't think about the titles because I want to focus on our games, one at a time.

"It's a difficult question to answer (the possibility of winning the quadruple). It's not an easy thing to do to win all four trophies so we'll just have to see how the season goes."

DPMM coach Steve Kean believes the White Swans will go from strength to strength after picking up two trophies so far.

NOT MAKING ANY PREDICTIONS

Winning this title means we can focus more now on the S-League and the Singapore Cup. I don't think about the titles because I want to focus on our games, one at a time.

NAOKI NARUO, Albirex Niigata coach, on whether his team can capture all four S-League trophies in one season.

He said: "Albirex will be tough to beat (in their quest for the quadruple). What they've done well (this year) is to add a little more experience to their squad.

"They're a tough team to play against because they start play from the back with the goalkeeper. They show great courage and are in a great position now so that gives them the advantage."

Yesterday, Albirex deployed unusual tactics to earn the win. Striker Kazuki Mine, standing at 1.9m, was deployed as a centre-back to shackle DPMM's 1.93m striker Rafael Ramazotti in front of 2,010 fans at Jalan Besar.

At the other end, defender Rui Kumada was utilised in attack and the switch paid off when he turned sharply to blast past goalkeeper Wardun Yussof just before half-time to give the Japanese side the lead.

Albirex dominated the second half with Kento Nagasaki and Kawata delivering regular crosses and Tatsuro Inui pulling the strings in midfield.

English defender Brian McLean was a bright spot for DPMM as his crunching tackles kept the Bruneian side in the game but the outcome of the match was settled after Kawata headed home Nagasaki's corner 10 minutes from time.

Naruo was a relieved man, saying: "We allowed them (DPMM) to create some chances so I can't say we defended well.

"But playing Mine in defence was important because DPMM's players are very tall.

"That worked to our advantage and we didn't concede against the likes of Ramazotti, who is very strong."

In yesterday's Plate final held at Jalan Besar, Geylang International beat Hougang United 2-1.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Title puts Albirex in sight of history'. Print Edition | Subscribe