Football: Albirex Niigata earn point in 0-0 draw with Brunei DPMM, but continue goal-less run

Brunei DPMM's Yura Indera Putera squares off with Albirex Niigata's Zamani Zamri at Jurong East Stadium on March 15, 2019 .
Brunei DPMM's Yura Indera Putera squares off with Albirex Niigata's Zamani Zamri at Jurong East Stadium on March 15, 2019 . ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Albirex Niigata, of all Singapore Premier League teams, should know about the importance of momentum.

After all, they won their first 17 games in the 2018 season and scored in all 24 matches to complete their hat-trick of league titles.

This season, however, things have gotten trickier for the White Swans as they have yet to score after three competitive games.

On Friday (March 15) night at the Jurong East Stadium, they collected their first league point of the season but were held to a goal-less draw by 10-man Brunei DPMM FC.

Albirex similarly failed to score in the Community Shield match against Home United, who won on penalties, and in their 1-0 league-opener defeat by Geylang International.

Teams cannot win games if they do not score and the task may seem harder the longer the drought continues.

After seeing his side extend their barren run and place sixth with one point in two games, Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi acknowledged 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 Brunei DPMM coach Adrian Pennock will attest to, Albirex are not a bad team.

Kyoga Nakamura is an intelligent playmaker capable of pulling the strings in the final third and Daizo Horikoshi is another dynamic attacker who creates problems for defences with his direct runs.

DPMM's Najib Tarif was in knots on Friday 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 DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof, who was tested only by Kaishu Yamazaki's free-kick in the second half.

Albirex's Plan B also failed, when 2.05-m striker Makito Hatanaka was brought on but his teammates failed to find him with their crosses.

Pennock was all smiles after the match despite seeing his side's perfect start to the season come to an end.

Sitting atop the table with seven points and three clean sheets from three games, the 47-year-old Englishman could afford to, even after seeing Andrei Varankou squander a counterattack by shooting straight at Kengo Fukudome in the 79th minute.

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 were not going to let them play football the way they want.

"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 with every team yet, but we would love to be up there for the title race, why not?"