White swans wingless

Charlie Clough (right) and Yura Indera Putera celebrating after Brunei DPMM beat Albirex Niigata 1-0 in their Komoco Motors Singapore Cup match at Jurong East Stadium last night.
Charlie Clough (right) and Yura Indera Putera celebrating after Brunei DPMM beat Albirex Niigata 1-0 in their Komoco Motors Singapore Cup match at Jurong East Stadium last night.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Singapore Cup holders crash out and will be without silverware for first time in 6 seasons

Albirex Niigata have ended their season empty-handed for the first time since 2014, after a 1-0 loss to Brunei DPMM at Jurong East Stadium last night snuffed out their bid for a fifth straight Singapore Cup.

The result, coupled with Geylang International's 2-0 win over Hougang United in a concurrent game at Jalan Besar Stadium, meant Geylang advanced to the semi-finals of the Cup competition as group runners-up behind DPMM, who lifted the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title last month.

Albirex had enjoyed trophy-laden seasons over the last five years. They won four consecutive Singapore Cups from 2015, and were also champions of the S-League (renamed the Singapore Premier League last year) from 2016 to 2018. In addition, they lifted three straight League Cups from 2015 to 2017, when the competition was last held.

A glum Albirex coach Keiji Shigetomi said: "It is regrettable we could not win either the league or Cup this year."

Before last night's games, Albirex were second in Group B on three points, level with Hougang but ahead on goal difference, and just one point behind DPMM. Geylang were fourth with just a single point.

But DPMM midfielder Azwan Ali's superb strike from distance in the 12th minute put the Japanese side in peril.

A 75th-minute goal by Geylang forward Amy Recha at Jalan Besar then lifted the Eagles above Albirex and Hougang, and a penalty by Fareez Farhan nine minutes later sealed their spot in the final four of Singapore's biggest Cup competition, sponsored this year by Komoco Motors.

Albirex had the ball in the back of the DPMM net three times last night but all three goals were disallowed - for offside, a foul and handball respectively. A draw would have seen them pip Geylang to a semi-final berth on goal difference.

When asked how he felt about his side not being able to score despite creating several good chances, Shigetomi simply responded: "Very disappointed."

DPMM coach Adrian Pennock, meanwhile, was thrilled at the prospect of completing a league and Cup double. His side will take on Warriors FC in the two-legged semi-finals, with both games to be played in Singapore.

But the 48-year-old former Stoke City assistant manager added: "We are definitely worried about the Warriors. It's never easy against them and we've had some good hard games against them."

Despite finishing seventh in the nine-team SPL, Warriors held DPMM to a 3-3 draw in their only home league meeting this season.

Warriors booked their berth after finishing as runners-up in Group A after a goalless draw with Balestier Khalsa at Bishan Stadium.

Tampines Rovers topped the group after they beat Home United 3-0 at Our Tampines Hub, and will play eastern rivals Geylang.

The semi-finals will be played on Saturday and next Wednesday. The final is on Nov 2.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'White swans wingless'. Print Edition | Subscribe