Albirex Niigata hold off Brunei DPMM to claim 2016 Community Shield
Last season's Double Cup winners Albirex Niigata (S) picked up the first trophy of the 2016 S.League season, by edging reigning league champions Brunei DPMM 3-2 in the Community Shield at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.
Goals from Mikiyi Yamada, Hiroyoshi Kamata and Kento Fujihara were enough to help the White Swans collect three points -- the game doubles up as a league game -- although an Azwan Ali strike and a Naofumi Tanaka own goal threatened to bring the game into a penalty shootout in front of 2,481 fans.
Albirex won three of their five preseason friendlies and they carried that form into the game against a DPMM side that were missing four key players.
Lining up in a roving 3-5-2 formation, the Japanese outfit were utterly dominant in the first 45 minutes and deservedly put two past DPMM keeper Wardun Yussof.
The first came on 16 minutes when Tanaka's left-wing cross went unchecked inside the DPMM box, with right-back Yamada latching on to the loose ball before unleashing a powerful drive inside Wardun's near post.
The DPMM custodian was then called into action on the half-hour mark to block Atsushi Kawata's shot from point-blank range, but there was nothing he could do to stop the White Swans from extending their lead on 36 minutes.
19-year-old forward Kamata put the finishing touch to a flowing move by calmly slotting into the bottom right corner from close range, after being set up by captain Kento Nagasaki's reverse pass.
Albirex carried on where they left off after the break as they pulled three goals clear on 59 minutes.
After Daichi Ishiyama's shot was hacked off the line by DPMM defender Brian McLean, centre-back Fujihara reacted quickest to bundle home Masaya Jitozono's resulting corner.
DPMM found some respite in the 65th minute when a slack backpass sold Albirex keeper Yosuke Nozawa short, leading to Azwan tapping into an empty net.
The goalscorer then found his 25-yard free-kick crashing off the posts seven minutes later.
The Wasps pulled another back in injury time as Nozawa's intended clearance took a ricochet off Tanaka before bouncing into his own net, but that proved to be too little too late.
DPMM coach Steve Kean admitted his unhappiness over his side's first half display, but remains confident of a title defence.
"We were ball-watching a lot and not taking control of defensive situations in the first half," said the Scotsman.
"But in the second half, we improved. If Azwan's free kick did not come off both posts, it could have been a different ending.
"I'm still confident of retaining the title; usually we get stronger as the season goes on."
Meanwhile Albirex counterpart Naoki Naruo was pleased with his team's performance despite the two defensive lapses late on.
"We conceded two goals, but those were from our own mistakes," he said. "We did not let them break our defence.
"We played very good passing football, with the two wing backs using the space on the sides well. The upcoming games will be difficult and we'll try to do even better than this game."
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK); Rui Kumada, Kento Fujihara (Kazuki Mine 76'), Atsushi Shirota, Mikiya Yamada (Tomoki Menda 61'), Masaya Jitozono, Daichi Ishiyama (Tadaaki Yazawa 88'), Kento Nagasaki (C), Naofumi Tanaka, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Atsushi Kawata
Brunei DPMM: Wardun Yussof (GK), Helmi Zambin, Brian McLean, Abdul Aziz Tamit (Yura Indera Putera 83'), Sairol Sahari (C), Paulo Sergio, Nurikhwan Othman (Khairul Anwar 63'), Azwan Saleh, Azwan Ali, Maududi Hilmi, Rafael Ramazotti