Match Of The Week

White Swans aim to soar after setbacks

Albirex attackers (from far left) Hiroyoshi Kamata, Kyoga Nakamura and Daizo Horikoshi enjoying their training yesterday morning at Jurong East Stadium. The team are looking for their first win this season.
Albirex attackers (from left) Hiroyoshi Kamata, Kyoga Nakamura and Daizo Horikoshi enjoying their training yesterday morning at Jurong East Stadium. The team are looking for their first win this season.ST PHOTO: SAHIBA CHAWDHARY

While three-time champs feel their defence is stable, they need to improve offensively

In each of their three league-winning campaigns, Albirex Niigata have always won their first few games of the season to give themselves a good start in the title race.

They now find themselves in an unfamiliar position, however, having to play catch-up in the Singapore Premier League after losing their league opener 1-0 to Geylang International two weeks ago.

Throw in the Community Shield penalty shoot-out defeat to Home United last month, and it is almost unthinkable that the White Swans could lose three in a row if they fall to Brunei DPMM - who have two wins and two clean sheets from two games - at the Jurong East Stadium tonight.

The last time they suffered a hat-trick of defeats was in 2014, when the Brunei team beat them in both legs of the Singapore Cup before they lost to Tanjong Pagar in the League Cup.

On their part, Albirex have been pro-active to remedy their shortcomings.

General manager Koh Mui Tee said they went to Myanmar last week and played friendlies against their national Under-19s and U-22s, which they won 3-1 and drew 0-0 respectively.

He said: "We want to improve our attacking play, and general confidence ahead of the Brunei DPMM game and I feel we achieved our objectives during this trip.

"We scored against the Myanmar U-19s and managed to keep a clean sheet against their U-22s who are a fast and strong side."

Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi was pleased to note that his attacking trio - pacey Daizo Horikoshi, and technically accomplished Hiroyoshi Kamata and Kyoga Nakamura - had a good outing in Myanmar.

Shigetomi said: "We didn't score in our first two games (this season) but we created a number of chances and that is a good thing.

"Against Geylang, we hit the post twice and had a shot cleared off the line.

  • SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

  • Albirex Niigata v Brunei DPMM

    Jurong East Stadium, 7.45pm

    Livestream: www.fas.org.sg/live1/

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  • Goals scored by Albirex Niigata, in regulation time in their opening two matches of the season.

"You could say we were unlucky, but we have to improve our accuracy, the delivery of the final ball, as well as decision-making.

"We continued to create against the Myanmar teams and this time Horikoshi scored once and Kamata scored twice so that is good for the confidence of the individuals and the team.

"At the other end, we conceded just once in two games against Home and Geylang, and that was from a corner.

"This means our defence actually held firm in open play and we did not give opponents many chances, so I feel our defence is quite stable overall."

While Albirex aim to get off the mark tonight, Shigetomi recognises the threat after the Brunei side's perfect start to the season.

He added: "This year, DPMM have three new imports in defence, midfield and attack (Englishman Charlie Clough, Australian Blake Ricciuto and Belarusian Andrey Varankow) who are strong, physical and dangerous during set plays.

"Their local players have been together in the team for many years, so they have good chemistry and we have to be careful of them too.

"But we are going for our first win of the season and we want to continue playing our own game, staying solid in defence and relying on good combination play to break down opponent's defence to achieve our objectives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'White Swans aim to soar after setbacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe