By Noah TanFollow @@Noah_Tan
Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium
In a game of few chances, Albirex scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game in the 24th minute when Kazuki Sakamoto raced onto captain Shuhei Hotta's superb through-pass and fired the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Despite the the Young Lions' best efforts to find the equalising goal, they simply could not find a way past a disciplined Albirex backline as a miserable week for Aide Iskandar's charges ended with yet another loss.
Coming into the game as one of only two teams to boast a 100% record in the league so far, Albirex started confidently and very nearly took the lead in the 12th minute when Masatake Sato's brilliant through ball released Bruno Castanheira on the right, but Sakamoto just failed to get on the end of the 22-year-old's subsequent cross.
Four minutes later, it was the Young Lions' turn to threaten the Albirex goal. The White Swans carelessly gave away possession in their own half, the ball broke to Ignatius Ang just outside the penalty box, and the 21-year-old unleashed a fierce low drive which flashed just wide of the left post.
Albirex picked up the pace of their game following that slight scare, and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock soon after. Hotta was the architect of the goal as he sent a defence-splitting pass from deep which set Sakamoto through on goal, and the 23-year-old striker calmly angled his finish past the despairing reach of opposition goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah.
Buoyed by their opening goal, the White Swans dominated proceedings and threatened to double their lead twice more in quick succession.
First, Masatake Sato stung the palms of Rudy with an ambitious free-kick from a tight angle on the left in the 37th minute. Two minutes later, Castanheira embarked on a mazy run into the box from the right, evaded the challenges of two defenders, but his ensuing shot was palmed away by the Young Lions custodian.
Despite Albirex's overwhelming dominance, they were unable to add to their goal tally and went into the half-time break with only a slender one goal lead.
Cheered on by the raucous home crowd, the Young Lions began to grow in confidence in the second half, and they fashioned a half-chance in the 59th minute when Sheikh Abdul Hadi rose highest to meet a corner at the near post, but failed to get any accuracy on his header. A minute later, the Young Lions came close again as Tajeli Salamat worked some space for himself on the edge of the penalty area, but he only succeeded in sending his snap-shot over.
While the Young Lions enjoyed much more possession in the second half, the White Swans continued to look a threat on the break, with Castanheira in particular proving a potent outlet of attack on the right for Koichi Sugiyama's men.
And the forward had the crowd on their feet in the 81st minute when he jinked his way past three defenders with an audacious piece of skill, drove into the box from the right, before sending a cross which Rudy had to beat away at full stretch.
With time running out, the Young Lions poured forward, and their positivity almost paid dividends deep into stoppage time when Shamil Sharif fired a ferocious half-volley from just outside the penalty area. However, Albirex custodian Hiroaki Hara comfortably saved the effort as the White Swans hung on to claim another three points.
Courts Young Lions: Rudy Khairullah, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Tajeli Salamat, Eddie Chang, Shamil Sharif, Nur Ridho, Sherif El-Masri, Ignatius Ang (Farhan Rahmat 45'), Fareez Farhan (Faiz Salleh 82'), Sufianto Salleh.
Albirex Niigata (S): Hiroaki Hara, Masahiro Ishikawa, Kento Fukuda, Itsuki Yamada, Tatsuya Sase, Shuhei Hotta, Shingo Suzuki, Kento Nagasaki, Masatake Sato (Takeshi Nagasawa 49'), Kazuki Sakamoto (Yoshinaga Arima 90'), Bruno Castanheira.