Wednesday, 15 June 2011 2:33 PM
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) FC knocked out a determined South Melbourne FC side from the 2011 RHB Singapore Cup.
The 3-0 win at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday night sent the White Swans through to the quarterfinals, while the Australians failed to better their performance from last season.
Eddie Krncevic, who oversaw the second half of South’s Singapore Cup quest last season, was less than disappointed with his team’s performance. “We played a good team, they were very mobile with a few players who are a bit special. They played good flowing football, and I can understand why they are near the top of the ladder.”
Accepting that the result was a little too harsh, Krncevic mentioned “3-0? Didn’t think it was a 3-0 game,” he stated in the post-match conference.To be honest the result didn’t reflect the game. But it was good experience for us. We played good football and I was very pleased with that. It’s a game we were always going to learn a lot from. It’s not easy going out to play in the searing heat”.
The 50-year-old’s consolation stemmed from the relatively strong start his team made, when a shaky Albirex defence came close to gifting the lead to the visitors within the opening fifteen minutes.
First, Jesse Krncevic, poked over from close range after being fed through on the blind side by Daniel Vasilevski, who also flashed a long-range volley just past the framework shortly after.
Thomas Matthews failed to register a shot on target as well when he glanced a header from a good position off a wide free kick.
But Albirex quickly found their footing and broke the deadlock against the run of play in the simplest of moves that totally flatfooted the South Melbourne defence.
Ryuta Hayashi’s chip from the byline into a penalty box teeming with South defenders sailed over everyone’s reach and found an unmarked Shotaro Ihata at the deep end, who calmly nodded home the opener.
The goal unfortunately signalled the end of the match as a competition, as Albirex withdrew into their half to retain possession and tease the Australians, who were already showing signs of tired legs.
But Tatsuro Inui did manage to sneak in a powerful shot before the signal for the break, an unexpected and swerving effort from the left flank which an alert Zaim Zeneli in goal reacted to brilliantly to deflect clear.
The introduction of fresh legs started to show dividends as South broke into the Albirex half more regularly, but the White Swans promptly upped the tempo and twice came close to doubling the lead.
Zeneli expertly denied Shimpei Sakurada, and then Bruno Suzuki Castenheira pulled his effort just wide from inside the six-yard box after some nifty footwork.
But with the further influx of fresh legs from South, they began to register shots on target and came the closest yet to getting on the scoresheet.
Weir did well to bring under control a lob over the defence, but his turn and shot was weak and easily gathered by Yoshito Matsushita in goal, though the forward was unlucky for having his shirt tugged at by his marker, something that went unnoticed by referee Leow Thiam Hoe.
Fellow substitute Kyle Joryeff then tested Matsushita from outside the penalty box, which had the custodian scrambling to turn the ball around the upright for a corner.
Then Jesse Krncevic hit the crossbar from the resulting corner kick, symbolically signalling the end of the competition for his side, as Albirex went on to add to their lead just minutes later with two goals in quick succession.
Atsushi Shimono raced past the defence line to slot home from close range, and then White Swans captain Sakurada completed the scoring for his side by firing into an unguarded net from the far post after Yosuke Saito had done his part down the flank to pull a low cross back across the face of goal.
With so many of his players in excellent form for the night, Albirex Head Coach Sugiyama was visibly pleased with the performance, though he refused to single out individual performers.
“Every player impressed me tonight,” was the 39-year-old’s measured response when asked on his man of the match. South Melbourne are a tough and strong side, physically and tactically, as I had expected.”
Despite his team’s stern showing for the night, making them look like early favourites for the RHB Singapore Cup crown, Sugiyama refused to be drawn too deep into his side’s overall chances for the tournament.
“I don’t know about the future, but we had a good game today,” he remarked.
“My players did their best against big and tall players. The important thing is to continue (with this), so we must keep improving and play better than today.”
FINAL SCORE: SOUTH MELBOURNE 0-3 ALBIREX NIIGATA SINGAPORE FC (HT: 0-1)
Zaim Zeneli, Thomas Matthews, Daniel Vasilevski (78′ Marinos Gasparis), Steven Topalovic, Carl Recchia (C), Kliment Tasevski, Jesse Krncevic, Trent Waterson, Daniel Dragicevic (73′ Kyle Joryeff), Sebastian Petrovic (58′ Steven Weir), Meyer (Junior) Carlos. Subs: Steven Weir, Marinos Gasparis, Kyle Joryeff, Robert Russell
Albirex Niigata Singapore FC:
Yoshito Matsushita, Ryuta Hayashi, Shuhei Hotta, Kazuki Kobatashi, Atsushi Shimono, Bruno Castanheira (74′ Yosuke Saito), Shimpei Sakurada (C), Tatsuro Inui (91′ Musashi Okuyama), Shotaro Ihata, Norihiro Kawakami, Takuya Hidaka Subs: Keisuke Matsui, Yosuke Saito, Ryo Hasegawa, Musashi Okuyama, Shunsuke Sagesaka, Hidekazu Yamashita, Kazuya Inagaki
Venue: Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
Date: Sunday 12 June 2011
Crowd: approximately 2,000
SMFC Player of the Match: Zaim Zeneli