Football: Albirex Niigata complete second straight quadruple after dramatic Singapore Cup win

Albirex players celebrating with the RHB Singapore Cup trophy on Saturday to seal their quadruple feat. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - For the second consecutive season, Albirex Niigata won all four trophies available in local football when the White Swans beat Global Cebu FC of the Philippines 3-1 on penalties to lift the RHB Singapore Cup.

The game finished 2-2 after extra-time.

Saturday's (Nov 25) victory added to the Community Shield, League Cup and S-League titles won earlier this year. Last term, the Japanese club also completed a clean sweep of all the silverware.It is also the club's third straight Singapore Cup win.

It was a battle of contrasting styles at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Global, who are coached by Singaporean and ex-Tampines Rovers tactician Akbar Nawas, played with great vigour and aggression while Albirex were more patient with their passing game.

The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute when forward Tsubasa Sano found space in the box and drilled a powerful low shot into the bottom corner.

Global equalised three minutes after the break when Brazilian midfielder Wesley Dos Santos equalised with a powerful header off a free-kick.

Albirex took the lead again five minutes into extra time when playmaker Kento Nagasaki pounced on a loose ball after a parry from goalkeeper Patrick Deyto to stroke the ball home for the winner. But in the 108th minute, forward Paolo Salenga shrugged off his marker to glance the ball into the net off another effective set-piece play.

In the shoot-out, Global missed three of their four attempts, with goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa's save from Salenga decisive.

For Albirex, the Singapore Cup triumph is the finale of an almost flawless campaign.

Kazuaki Yoshinaga's men took the championship with 62 points from 24 games, losing just twice and ending the campaign eight points ahead of runners-up Tampines Rovers. They were also the highest scorers with 70 goals and the meanest defence with just 16 conceded. Sano is also the league's top scorer with 26 strikes.

Last season, forward Atsushi Kawata, who scored 13 league goals, was named Player of the Year while tactician Naoki Naruo collected the Coach of the Year award. Both were recalled by the parent club in Japan, with Kawata making his J-League breakthrough while Naruo was reassigned to coach the club's Under-18s.

Winger Tatsuro Inui, a key player in the S-League triumph, was snapped up by Japanese third-tier J-3 club Blaublitz Akita.

Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga is impressed with Yoshinaga's work and is keen to keep his head coach in Singapore.

The 40-year-old said: "I want to keep the coach. He is very experienced and he's very good with young players. I hope he can return to coach our S-League team next year."

The play-off for third place between Home United and Hougang United, which was originally scheduled to be played earlier on Saturday evening, has been postponed for a day owing to inclement weather.

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