Albirex Niigata (S) remain on track to retain the Singapore Cup after claiming a 3-1 win over Home United in the first leg of their semi-final.
It took the White Swans just three minutes to break the deadlock at the Jurong East Stadium when Ryota Nakai scored on the rebound, after Tsubasa Sano’s initial effort had been saved by Hassan Sunny.
However, Home mustered a response in the 17th minute when Faris Ramli found space on the edge of the area and curled a fine effort beyond Yosuke Nozawa’s despairing dive.
The visitors then had an excellent chance to edge ahead when Irfan Fandi won a penalty three minutes before the half-hour mark, only for Stipe Plazibat to send his effort into the post.
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Albirex capitalised on that close shave by reclaiming the lead in the 57th minute when Hiroyoshi Kamata’s cross from the left crept in at the near post.
And, with 15 minutes remaining, the hosts made sure of the win when Kento Nagasaki curled a sublime 20-yard freekick into the bottom corner.
In Wednesday’s other tie, Hougang United left it late to force a 2-2 draw against Philippine outfit Global Cebu at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
It was Hougang who drew first blood in the 28th minute when defender Delwinder Singh popped up at the other end to good effect, heading home Zulfahmi Arifin’s corner at the far post.
Nonetheless, it took Global just five minutes to equalise when Darryl Roberts coolly finished after latching onto a through-pass by Paolo Salenga.
Roberts then struck again to put the invited side ahead in the 68th minute, bundling home on the rebound after opposition keeper Khairulhin Khalid had made a brilliant save to keep out an initial effort.
But, with five minutes remaining, Fabian Kwok lashed a superb left-footed drive from outside the area past Patrick Deyto to leave the tie evenly poised ahead of Saturday’s return encounter.
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