Shuhei Hoshino’s brace on either side of half-time helped Albirex Niigata FC (S) to a 2-1 victory over Warriors FC in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Sunday evening.
Jonathan Behe netted for the hosts late on in the game, but it proved to be a mere consolation as Albirex continued their fine start to the season to go 11 points clear at the top while Warriors closed their first round of fixtures without victory.
Warriors could have gone ahead after seven minutes when Kaishu Yamazaki’s stray pass found its way to Ho Wai Loon. His cutback found Ammirul Emmran lurking in the middle but the midfielder scuffed his shot.
After a tentative opening 15 minutes, it was Albirex who took the lead on 20 minutes. Kenya Takahashi crossed low for Hoshino who left Hafiz Sulaiman for dead before finishing into the top corner.
Mirko Grabovac’s side came close to a leveller at the other end eight minutes later when Tajeli Salamat flicked a long ball into the path of Behe who fired a tame shot at Yohsuke Nozawa.
Takahashi then flashed a free-kick wide on 31 minutes before Suria Prakash’s half-volley was easily dealt with by Nozawa seven minutes later.
Hafiz would make amends for his earlier mistake six minutes before the break, putting in a last-ditch tackle to deny Albirex midfielder Taku Morinaga just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Albirex continued where they left off after the restart and nearly doubled their lead. Morinaga poked narrowly wide in the 55th minute before Hoshino’s fierce shot was deflected for a corner three minutes later.
Under pressure for most of the game, the hosts conjured their best chance of the game on 63 minutes. Following a good passage of play, Behe scooped the ball just over after getting onto another Tajeli knockdown.
Warriors reacted by bringing on Sahil Suhaimi for Ammirul Emmran to inject attacking impetus and the former nearly netted two minutes after coming on, but his effort was straight at Nozawa.
The hosts were made to pay for their profligacy as Hoshino connected with Hiroyoshi Kamata’s right-wing cross to nod past a stranded Mukundan Maran to seal victory in the 71st minute.
Grabovac’s charges refused to throw in the towel and pulled one back through Behe with 11 minutes left, with the Frenchman poking one past Nozawa from close range after he was teed up by substitute Ignatius Ang.
Warriors pushed numbers forward in the closing stages and even had a penalty call turned down but it was ultimately too little too late as they slumped to their third defeat of the season to sit in seventh with five points from eight games. They will face Geylang International FC at the National Stadium next Sunday, looking to notch their first win of the season.
Victors Albirex meanwhile sit pretty on top and will travel to Jalan Besar to take on the Young Lions on Wednesday night.
Warriors Head Coach Mirko Grabovac: “I was very happy with the performance of my players and I thought we gave Albirex a good fight today. Our set-pieces improved and they worked very hard against a quality team who are technically good.
“Today you could see that Behe is still dangerous despite just returning from injury and we could have gotten a point if we were lucky. However, we made two mistakes at the club and were punished for that.
“It was an excellent game nevertheless, with many chances for both teams and I’m sure a performance like this will get us the three points soon.”
Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “Today’s game is finished and we have another game on Wednesday (against the Young Lions) so we have two days to rest for that which is important to get better for the upcoming games.
“Hoshino has been working very hard with six goals and this is a result of his hard work. However, I think he can do better. He is physically strong enough but I want him to get into goalscoring position more and exploit on the space that he is given.
“Whether Behe scores or not today, it’s important we got three points and the goals but there are still issues and room for improvement both individually and as a team.”
Warriors: Mukundan Maran (GK), Emmeric Ong, Ismadi Mukhtar, Hafiz Sulaiman, Shamil Sharif (Ignatius Ang 75’), Suria Prakash (Firdaus Kasman 46’), Poh Yi Feng (C), Ammirul Emmran (Sahil Suhaimi 68’), Tajeli Salamat, Ho Wai Loon, Jonathan Behe
Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuhei Sasahara, Kaishu Yamazaki, Kenya Takahashi, Riku Moriyasu (Ryujiro Yamanaka 76’), Daiki Asaoka, Wataru Murofushi (C) (Kazuki Sumiishi 87’), Adam Swandi, Taku Morinaga, Shuhei Hoshino