Albirex Niigata 1 (Sato 75”)
Yotha FC (Laos) 0
In a boring affair at the Jurong East Stadium, Albirex needed a free kick from Masatake Sato to break the deadlock against Laotian League Champions Yotha FC and progress to the next stage of the RHB Singapore Cup.
It was a sign of things to come from the first minute on when Albirex had the lion’s share of the possession but maintained a cautious approach towards the Laotians who did not have a single foreigner in their squad. They did however have Lamnao Singto who used to turn out for Thai Premier League side Buriram PEA.
The White Swans had the occasional surge towards the Yotha goal but were mostly contented to sit back and stroke the ball around with S-League All Star Atsushi Shimono directing the show from the centre of the park.
However on occasions when Albirex did threaten the Yotha goal, custodian Sourasay Keosouvandeng was up to task. Sho Kamimura tested him out with a rocket in the 16th minute but the Yotha keeper kept it out for a corner. Hidekazu Yamamoto was the next to test the keeper after bursting through from a through ball from midfield but the resulting one on one saw Keosouvandeng denying Albirex again.
The second half started in the similar fashion with Albirex still controlling possession but Yotha finally started to apply pressure on the Japanese with forays forward whenever they regained possession. The first shot of the game for the Laotians came in the 49th minute when Sompong Manivanh forced a one on one save from Takuma Ito.
In the 51st minute, Yotha defender Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya started a mazy run forward into the Albirex half which saw the ball end up at the feet Phuttavong Sapackdy. The Yotha midfielder did not need any invitation to fire a good shot after finding himself in acres of space in the Albirex area but Takuma Ito was alert and kept the shot out.
The only goal of the game finally came at the 75th minute when Phommapanya fouled an Albirex player near the penalty area. The resulting free kick curled in by Masatake Sato was out of reach for the Yotha keeper and was all that was needed to give Albirex the win.
Speaking to the press after the game via a translator, Albirex gaffer Koichi Sugiyama said he was always confident of winning the tie within 90 minutes of normal time and was pleased with the way his charges created chances despite the lack of goals. He also added that his boys will now be going away for a much needed break before coming back for training next weekend.
Yotha FC coach Somsack Keodala was also pleased with his team’s performance despite Albirex being the strongest team his side has ever faced. He was glad to have the chance to face the Japanese side and it proved to be a worthy learning experience. Given the opportunity he would like to return to next year’s edition of the RHB Singapore Cup.
Albirex Niigata Singapore will next take on Tampines Rovers in the next round of the RHB Singapore Cup.
Albirex Line Up: Ito(GK), Kawakami(C ), Yamashita, Shimono, Matsui (Hotta 80”), Okuyama (Shiratori 90+2”), Kamimura, Soya, Sato, Ito, Yamamoto (Ichikawa 58”)
Yotha Line Up: Keosouvandeng(GK), Phommapanya (Inthilath 76”), Khotsaya, Namthavixay, Sapackdy (Khanthavong 60”), Singto(C ), Phaphouvanin, Lithideth, Liepvisay, Manivah, Phongsettha (Khumsamnarn 73”)