Albirex Niigata FC S and Hougang United coaches Kazuaki Yoshinaga and Clement Teo apologized after an ill-tempered game in the Singapore Cup on Saturday evening.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Albirex played hosts to Hougang at Jurong East Stadium and duly defended their 37-game unbeaten home streak with a 2-0 victory to make it a 3-0 win on aggregate.
There was a sense of tension in the air following a contentious decision in the first leg that led to Albirex’s winner from a free-kick. Replays however, have proved that the decision made by referee G Letchmann was a dubious one.
Hougang came out in positive fashion and went on the attack but things began to turn awry with fouls aplenty as referee Ahmad A’Qashah dished out a total of eight yellow cards – six to Hougang players and two for Albirex.
Things threatened to boil over just before the half-time whistle when Nazrul Nazari was preparing to take a throw-in but could not get hold of a football as both coaches got involved.
Hougang midfielder Syahiran Miswan was seen confronting Yoshinaga, who in turn gestured back and both sets of players and officials had to be held back heading into the dressing room.
Speaking to the media after the game, Yoshinaga was quick to apologise for his actions but went on to explain why his emotions got the better of him.
“Sorry for all the unpleasant things that happened on the pitch and sorry that I could not control my temper. It was mainly because one of my previous players (Daizen Maeda) from high school had a serious injury because of a late tackle in the semifinals of the Asian Games – because of that he could not play in the final,” Yoshinaga said.
“In this match, I saw a lot of late tackles and I feel that more should be done to protect players from serious injuries. Thus I was upset but I should be able to control my emotions better.
“We knew Hougang will come aggressively because we need to win this match. As such we told them to stay focused and cool when the bad tackles come.
“I’m glad our players maintained that most of the time. For the first leg of the semifinal, we will miss the services of two players – ‘Jumbo’ (Shuhei Hoshino) and Kenya (Takahashi), but we should have enough time to work on different strategies to cope.”
His counterpart from Hougang, Teo was equally apologetic but defended his players’ aggressive approach as “part of the game”.
Teo remarked: “I would also like to apologise if our players had gone a little too far, but this is football – it’s a physical game. Sometimes you just need to be more physical to show your presence. I guess my boys did that, but at certain times they just lost it. So I would like to apologise to Albirex for whatever incidents that happened.”
Hougang’s six yellow cards will see them face a fine from the organisers while Albirex will now wait to see if they face Tampines Rovers or Home United in the semifinals later this month.
Photo credit: Albirex Niigata FC S