When Hougang United hosts Albirex Niigata (S) at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday, they will come face to face with the S.League’s best defensive side. The Japanese team has shipped in just 10 goals in 17 league matches. Even more impressively, they have conceded just 13 goals in 24 matches across all competitions this year, including the League Cup tournament that they won in July.
It is no wonder then that coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama has consistently fielded the same backline barring injuries or suspensions. In between rightback Mikiya Yamada and leftback Itsuki Yamada, the centreback pairing of Kento Fujihara and Takahiro Saito have featured in every game this season. Likewise with goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa, who has the best figures among all regular first choice goalkeepers with 12 conceded goals and 15 clean sheets in his 24 appearances.
In midfield, the defensive pillars of Hikaru Mizuno and Shun Inaba have started almost every game, the sole exception a cup tie that Inaba was suspended for. Ahead of them, playmaker Fumiya Kogure boasts seven assists, the most in his team. Either side of Fumiya are the team’s two top scorers – right midfielder Atsushi Kawata has 9 goals (5 in the league) while left midfielder Rion Taki has 8 goals (6 in the league).
Notwithstanding their midfielders’ contributions, scoring goals have remained an area of concern for the White Swans. After a disappointing haul of just 2 goals in 15 matches, first choice central forward Shotaro Ihata was relegated to the bench with Kawata and Rui Kumada alternating as his replacement. Despite sitting second in the table, Albirex Niigata (S) has scored 9 fewer goals than the teams immediately ahead and behind of them – Brunei DPMM and Warriors respectively. Even Hougang United in eight place has surprisingly outscored Albirex in the league, albeit by a difference of just two. Only the Young Lions and Geylang International have scored fewer goals than the Swans’ haul of 18 in 17 league games.
The Cheetahs will be missing Faizal Amir, suspended after receiving two yellow cards in their previous game. The right back had provided the assist for Vuk Sotirovic’s goal in that same game, the 0:1 away win over Harimau Muda in Melacca. Hougang United has yet to win two games in a row this season and will hope to rectify that against the formidable White Swans.
Hougang United F.C. vs Albirex Niigata (S) F.C.
2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League
28th August 2015, Friday
7:30 pm, Jalan Besar Stadium