Plucky Geylang end Albirex's title bid

Albirex Niigata are out of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League title race after they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Geylang United on Satuday.

The two forwards engaged in a real tussle!

By staff

The White Swans came into this fixture knowing that they needed to win all three of their remaining league fixtures to have any chance of winning the title but things did not go according to plan for Kôichi Sugiyama's men as Eagles' Michael King scored in the 39th minute to increase the pressure on the Japanese side going into the break.

Albirex came out strongly in the second half but despite controlling majoriy of the possession, they were unable to break down a resolute Geylang defence, and it took an incredible solo goal by Sho Kamimura to level things for them in the 74th minute, but it was too little, too late for the Japanese side, who just could not breach the Eagles' goal once more.

Inclement weather delayed the game by 75 minutes at the Jurong East Stadium and the interruption seemed to have a negative impact on the players as both sides started sluggishly, but it was Geylang who threatened first, with Jozef Kaplan coming close in the 10th minute but his effort sailed just over the bar.

The White Swans survived another scare four minutes later when Shah Hirul found time and space to power an effort from 25 yards out which went just wide but had Albirex goalkeeper Takuma Ito scrambling.

This near miss seemed to finally wake Albirex up and the home team started to take control of the game, but they were finding it hard to make inroads into the well-drilled Geylang defence. The Eagles' defence was nearly breached in the 34th minute however, as Masatake Sato's pinpoint freekick was well met by Yuki Ichikawa, whose goal-bound effort took a wicked deflection which nearly caught Geylang custodian Ridhuan Barudin by surprise but the 25-year-old showed great reflexes to keep the ball out of his net.

Geylang then grabbed the lead against the run of play six minutes from the interval when a great counter-attacking move involving great interplay between Kaplan and Stefan Milojevic was finished by King, who calmly poked the ball past the onrushing Ito to take a one goal lead into the break. 

With Albirex's title aspirations hanging by a thread, Sugiyama set his team out to attack in the second half and their adventurous approach almost paid dividends 13 minutes after the break; midfielder Musashi Okuyama showed great vision to pick out Kamimura, who then crossed the ball back into the box for Yasuhiro Yamakoshi but the striker could only send his header wide.

The home team looked increasingly desperate as the clock ticked down and the frustration on the players' faces were clear to see when Yamakoshi again wasted a golden opportunity to level the scores in the 68th minute and sent his shot from the edge of the box straight at Ridhuan after having been cleverly set up by Okuyama.

Albirex finally broke down Geylang's resistance six minutes later, when Kamimura embarked on an amazing solo run from the middle of the pitch before unleashing a fierce low drive from just inside the penalty box which nestled into the bottom corner of Ridhuan's net.

The 24-year-old then turned from hero to villain when he missed a sitter three minutes later; Takeshi Ito charged forward into a dangerous area before showing great awareness to find Kamimura with a cut back but the striker slipped at the crucial moment and sent his effort wide.

Unfortunately for the White Swans, they were unable to find a winner in the closing stages and had to settle for a share of the spoils, which was not enough to keep them alive in the title race.

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