2023, FEBRUARY 18 – The 2023 Singapore Premier League (SPL) Community Shield match was highly anticipated by football fans as it marked the start of the new season.

The implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the match was a significant milestone, as it marked the first time the technology was utilised in Singapore professional football.

Albirex Niigata FC (Singapore) put on a spectacular second half performance to secure a convincing 3-0 victory over Hougang United FC.

The White Swans started slow, possibly due to match nerves or unfamiliarity among the nine Japanese debutants. Despite Hougang United having better chances in the first half, they were unable to trouble opposing goalkeeper, Hassan Sunny. The Cheetahs made two penalty appeals, but both were denied by referee Jansen Foo after VAR reviews, leaving the score goalless heading into the break.

In the second half, Albirex took control of the game after Riku Fukashiro was brought on as a substitute for Nicky Melvin Singh, who had been shown a yellow card moments ago.

The turning point came in the 57th minute when a crucial decision on a penalty was made through the VAR, which was awarded to Albirex. Seia Kunori stepped up and confidently converted the penalty, putting his team ahead.

In the 69th minute, Kaisei Ogawa‘s curled shot towards the far right post was saved by Hougang’s goalkeeper, Zaiful Nizam, but Shodai Yokoyama was there to head in the rebound. The goal was initially disallowed for being offside, causing a moment of uncertainty. However, after consulting with the VAR, the referee eventually awarded the goal to Albirex. This decision delighted the Albirex fans and brought their tally up to two goals, further solidifying their lead over the Cheetahs.

Despite the setback, Hougang United was unable to mount a comeback, and Albirex continued to dominate the game. Riku Fukashiro scored the third and final goal of the match in the 74th minute, securing the win for his team.

Former Japanese international, Tadanari Lee, made a notable appearance in the 76th minute as he came on as a substitute for Shuto Komaki, marking his impressive 20th year as a professional football player.

Albirex secured the 2023 SPL Community Shield, marking Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga‘s third win in the competition, following victories in 2017 and 2018. This triumph represents Albirex’s first trophy of the year, setting the tone for the season ahead.

The SPL season proper is set to start on 24 February 2023 (Friday), with Lion City Sailors FC playing against Tanjong Pagar United FC at Bishan Stadium. This will be followed by the Eastern Derby between Tampines Rovers FC and Geylang International FC, while Albirex Niigata FC (Singapore) will play against Young Lions at Jurong East Stadium the next day (25 February). The weekend’s fixtures will be wrapped up on Sunday (26 February), with Balestier Khalsa FC taking on Hougang United FC at Bishan Stadium.

Weekday matches will kick off at 7:45pm and the weekend matches at 6:00pm. Fans who are unable to make their way to the stadiums will be able to catch the action ‘LIVE’ on Singtel, StarHub, Mediacorp‘s meWATCH platform, as well as the SPL YouTube channel.


Starting Lineup: 18. Hassan Sunny, 2. Ryo Takahashi, 4. Koki Kawachi, 5. Shunsaku Kishimoto, 17. Sho Fuwa, 6. Asahi Yokokawa, 8. Kaisei Ogawa, 7. Shuto Komaki (19. Tadanari Lee 76′), 22. Nicky Melvin Singh (9. Riku Fukashiro 50′), 14. Shodai Yokoyama (3. Keito Hariya 85′), 10. Seia Kunori
Unused Substitutes: 21. Hyrulnizam Juma’at, 31. Yoshihiko Kobayashi, 52. Junki Kenn Yoshimura, 54. Kenji Austin, 13. Masaya Watanabe, 27. Shakthi Vinayagavijayan

Starting Lineup: 19. Zaiful Nizam, 4. Nazrul Nazari, 5. Naoki Kuriyama, 6. Kazuma Takayama, 10. Kristijan Krajček, 17. Irwan Shah, 37. Zulfahmi Arifin, 16. Ajay Robson (23. Sahil Suhaimi 70′), 22. Gabriel Quak (7. Amy Recha 70′), 32. Brian Ferreira, 11. Hazzuwan Halim
Unused Substitutes: 25. Zainol Gulam, 2. Anders Aplin, 55. Rauf Sanizal, 68. Iryan Fandi, 14. Umar Akhbar, 24. Amir Zalani, 63. Hariysh Krishnakumar

Albirex Niigata (S): Seia Kunori (57′ PEN),  Shodai Yokoyama (69′), Riku Fukashiro (74′)
Hougang United: N/A


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