SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Albirex Niigata 0
Brunei DPMM 0
Albirex Niigata, of all Singapore Premier League teams, should know the importance of momentum.
After all, they won their first 17 games last season and scored in all 24 matches to complete their hat-trick of league titles.
This season, however, they have yet to score after three competitive games after being held 0-0 by 10-man Brunei DPMM at the Jurong East Stadium last night.
The consolation was that it was their first league point of the season.
Albirex also failed to score in the Community Shield against Home United, who won on penalties, and in their 1-0 loss to Geylang International in the league opener.
After seeing his side extend their barren run and occupy sixth spot with one point in two games, Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi acknowledged that the psychological importance of getting off the mark, but trusted his players to make the breakthrough.
The 39-year-old Japanese said: "Maybe our players are too young and inexperienced, they are too anxious to score.
"We will continue working with them and train them until it becomes second nature for them to be more composed and not rush things. We will also work harder to improve our accuracy."
As DPMM coach Adrian Pennock will attest to, Albirex are not a bad team.
Kyoga Nakamura is an intelligent playmaker and pulls the strings in the final third and Daizo Horikoshi is a dynamic attacker who creates problems with his direct runs.
DPMM's Najib Tarif was in knots last night and had to resort to fouling Horikoshi to stop the tricky midfielder and was sent off after two yellow cards.
However, Albirex lacked the cutting edge in front of goal, flashing shots wide instead of troubling goalkeeper Wardun Yussof, who was tested only by Kaishu Yamazaki's free kick in the second half.
Their Plan B also failed; the 2.05m striker Makito Hatanaka was brought on, but teammates failed to find him with their crosses.
Pennock was all smiles despite seeing Andrei Varankou squander a counter-attack by shooting straight at Kengo Fukudome in the 79th minute. DPMM's perfect start may have been halted, but his team are top with seven points and three clean sheets from three games.
He said: "We want to entertain, score goals and win games but, sometimes, we have to play ugly and get a very good result, and that was today.
"We went for the physical approach because Albirex are a very good side, especially when they play here on artificial turf where they haven't lost since 2015.
"We deserved the red card, but the character of our squad has been first-class, and I'm very proud of my players.
"It is still early in the season and we have not played every team yet, but we would love to be up there for the title race, why not?"