RHB Singapore Cup
Semi Finals (1st Leg)
Jurong East Stadium, Kick-Off 730pm
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) would certainly have fond memories of their last meeting with Hougang United.
The last time the two teams met, the White Swans secured their first piece of silverware in their eight-year history in Singapore, beating the Cheetahs in the League Cup 2011 final in July through a penalty shootout.
When the two teams cross paths again at Jurong East Stadium on Tuesday evening, a spot in the final of another competition will be at stake as they face off in the first part of the two-legged RHB Singapore Cup semifinals.
It will be the fourth time this season that the two teams have met on the pitch, with the Japanese club coming out tops on two occasions. Besides the League Cup final, Albirex have also demolished Hougang 5-1 in the league at Jurong East on the first week of July.
However, Hougang did secure a 1-0 win when the teams first met this year at Hougang Stadium. Ratna Suffian was the hero then, scoring the only goal of the match six minutes from time, with goalkeeper Fadhil Salim turning in an outstanding performance.
The Cheetahs will definitely hope for the same kind of form from their custodian as they face a very strong attacking side in Albirex.
The White Swans’ offensive prowess is feared throughout the league, as they have scored more goals than any other team this season. Big results are certainly proving their specialty, and clubs like fellow Cup semifinalists Etoile and Home United can attest to that as they have been beaten 2-7 and 0-4 respectively.
“Our defence will start from the strikers and work its way down. I will have to instil a good defensive strategy against them. It certainly is not going to be easy, but we’ll be ready for them.”
Hougang will be without the services of Faizal Amir as he is suspended for this first game, while Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama would probably welcome Yosuke Saito back after he sat out the last two games with an injury.
The former J-League player will be spoilt for choice in attack as he looks to pick his best attacking side to unlock a fragile Hougang defence that has already been breached 49 times in the league this season. Club top-scorer Shotaro Ihata is almost certain to start, but it is unclear who will take the duties of supporting him from the flanks.
And there is little surprise in that. Apart from Saito, there is the effervescent Tatsuro Inui, whose goal pegged back the Young Lions last week, and half-Brazilian Bruno Suzuki Castanheira.
All of them are proven scorers this season, and with competition within the team at an all-time high, Hougang’s defence had better be prepared for a much-motivated Albirex team! - (SOURCE)