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[Singapore Cup] Albirex Kept Unprecedented Dream Alive After Tepid Win ...

Anxious moments for Balestier (yellow)
It was not the best game to be shown on live television but it really does not matter when you were able to get the job done at the end of the day like Albirex Niigata (Singapore) did at Toa Payoh earlier.

One would expect the Japanese side to go all out to secure a bigger buffer in the second-leg of RHB Singapore Cup semi-final match against Balestier Khalsa whom they had a wafer-thin one-goal advantage carried into this match.

Atsushi Kawata (left) closely monitored 
But none of that urgency was shown in the match that was best described as uninspiring and tepid encounter which most would not associated to the usual intensity of a Cup game.

Barred for some anxious moments in the Balestier's penalty area in the first half when Albirex found themselves tried to break down the Tigers' resilience at the back, there wasn't much action to keep the sporadic crowds at the ground or viewers at home at the edge of their seats.

Ho Wai Loon (right) kept things check against Tatsuro Inui
So much so when substitute Rui Kumada headed home in the 82nd minute to make the score two-nil on aggregate, there was barely any euphoria erupted in this stadium and things proceeded as per normal after the match was restarted before referee W Ravisanthiran blew to end the game following four minutes of stoppage added on.

With this victory, the reigning League Cup holders confirmed their berth in the Cup final where they will be facing Tampines Rovers, their closest rivals in the S.League title as well.

When asked if it would be a concern for his side to take on the Stags twice in four days apart in late October with the potential title race decider on the 26th followed by the final on the 29th , Albirex's coach Naoki Naruo elected to stay focused on their next league fixture against Geylang International on 22nd of this month.

Niko Tokic (left) in tussle with Shuto Inaba
Said the 42-year-old tactician:“My focus will be on our next game against Geylang (International) and to win as many points as possible in our remaining matches.”

“I am happy with the tonight's result and it was a difficult match when it was played on natural turf (unlike the artificial surface at Jurong East) that we were not able to play our usual passing game, but I am satisfy with the team's overall performance this evening.” he added.