ALBIREX NIIGATA (S) 2
Rui Kumada 20’, Hikaru Mizuno 52’
HOUGANG UNITED 1
Kunihiro Yamashita 33’
By Phoon Jia Hui
Despite their best efforts, Hougang United succumbed to their fifth defeat of the 2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League season as they fell 2-1 to Albirex Niigata (S) in the week’s televised game at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.
Strikes from Rui Kumada and Hikaru Mizuno on either side of each half handed the White Swans all three points, rendering old boy Kunihiro Yamashita’s 33rd-minute goal a mere consolation.
However, it was Hougang who enjoyed a more promising start to the game and almost found themselves in front after eight minutes. Yamashita’s header from point-blank range was denied by the outstretched foot of Yosuke Nazawa, although the flag had already gone up against the former.
The deadlock was broken at the other end in the 20th minute. Kumada connected with Shotaro Ihata’s cross to power home a header, which Ridhuan Barudin failed to keep out despite getting a touch.
After falling behind, Hougang midfielder Shunsuke Nakatake hit a freekick which Nazawa collected comfortably just before the half-hour mark. He would turn provider for the equalizer moments later.
Yamashita was the beneficiary this time round as he rose highest inside the penalty box to meet Nakatake’s corner before sending a thumping header past Nazawa for his third goal of the season.
Albirex’s Atsushi Kawata then came close just before the break with an effort from distance which sailed just over the bar, before Lau Meng Meng thwarted Ihata with a last-ditch challenge.
Right after the restart, Yamashita could have scored his second goal and put his side ahead for the first time in the match but his header off another Nakatake corner was hacked off the line by Mikiya Yamada.
It was a miss which Salim Moin’s side were left to rue just a minute later as Mizuno fired home the winner from close range, after the Hougang defence failed to clear their lines from a counter attack.
Refusing to throw in the towel, the Cheetahs pushed forward in search of a late goal and were nearly rewarded ten minutes from time.
Substitute Fairoz Hasan’s right-wing cross fell nicely for Francisco ‘Chupe’ Ela but the Hougang striker’s header came agonizingly off the bar and out of play. Referee Farhad Mohd called time on proceedings soon after, which left Hougang still looking for their first win of the season after nine games played.
The result meant the Cheetahs remained in ninth place with four points, just ahead of the Courts Young Lions – who have two games in hand – on goal difference. Hougang will next travel to Yishun Stadium to take on Home United on May 14.
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nazawa (GK); Mikiya Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Kento Fujihara, Itsuki Yamada; Rui Kumada, Hikaru Mizuno, Shun Inaba (C), Atsushi Kawata; Kento Nagasaki (Yusuke Mukai 83’); Shotaro Ihata (Ryuki Matsuya 90’).
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK); Faizal Amir (Faiz Salleh 79’), Kenneth Chang, Kunihiro Yamashita, Lau Meng Meng; Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Renshi Yamaguchi, Shunsuke Nakatake, Manato Takahashi (Fareez Farhan 77’); Francisco Ela; Muhaymin Salim (Fairoz Hasan 72’).
Photo credit: S.League