By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
Aside from veteran goalkeeper Hiroaki Hara and journeyman Shingo Suzuki, Albirex sent out a side that had an average age of just 22.7 years against last season's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League runners-up in Monday's encounter at the Jurong East stadium.
But the young side demonstrated maturity and technical excellence beyond their years as they passed the ball around the physically superior DPMM players with consummate ease.
Goals by Kento Nagasaki and Kazuki Sakamoto followed Shahrazen Said's opener to complete the 2-1 win on the night and the Brunei outfit join the likes of Home United, Hougang United and Harimau Muda to have lost out to the White Swans.
Sugiyama admitted to being impressed with the manner of their comeback victory over DPMM, but he does not want the side's perfect start to distract his players from continuing to put in good performances on the pitch.
"Yes, we have won four games in a row but we don’t want to be overconfident and we should just focus on the next game," the former Urawa Red Diamonds defender said the post-match press conference.
"DPMM were a strong, tough and swift opposition. But we did not give up [after they scored the first goal] and the win is a credit to the good work by the players, the staff and even the supporters who were terrific.
"At half-time, it was important that I told the attack to speed up their passing while the defenders had to watch out for the long balls hoofed upfield by the DPMM players.
"Once we started defending the long balls properly, we reduced the danger of their attack."
While the plaudits would not come in force from their own coach, opposing number Vjeran Simunic was left mighty impressed by the Albirex performance.
"This is the best ever Albirex side that I’ve faced. I think they’re contenders for the title as well," he commented.
"I was hoping to secure a draw here to hamper their chances but we were unlucky.
"I saw them beat Home 2-1 and then Hougang 1-0 and they were good on both occasions. They’ve beat two title rivals now so it’s a really good start of them."
The Croat was unhappy, however, that Albirex decided to play on when defender Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman appeared to have suffered a serious injury in the 71st minute of the game.
Counterpart Sugiyama defended his players though, stating that they were right to continue the attack as the referee had not signalled a stoppage in play.
"If it was really a serious injury, the referee would have stopped the game but he didn’t so we carried on playing," the 41-year-old insisted.
"We want to raise the level of football in Singapore and want to play to the whistle and play as long as possible.
"We understand that we should play as long as possible for the sake of the watching supporters.
"Even at international level, it’s the same as players are told to play to the whistle so I don’t think my players did anything wrong."
Albirex are next in action on March 20 when they visit Courts Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium.