Friday, July 13, 2012

Reaction: Albirex vs Woodlands

13 games without a win.

That's the record as it stands now, and honestly we are lucky to still be in 12th position after Geylang conceded a late, late goal in a game which seemed headed for a draw following Jozef Kaplán's 85th minute penalty, which drew the Eagles level with the Cheetahs.

The Japanese were simply too organized for the Rams. Woodlands' attacks were snuffed out the moment they were started, and the White Swans had us back peddling on several occasions. If it weren't for some effective defending from Fabien Lewis and Daniel Hammond, we would have left Jurong East with a even larger deficit.

The Japanese shone at their game, and it wasn't just their bright orange jerseys.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

When Woodlands played Albirex in their reverse fixture earlier this season, many felt that the Rams were too cautious and did not venture forward enough. The same could be said for the first half at Jurong East, as Albirex kept us in our own half with their slick passing game and coordinated play. We simply could not find anyway past the White Swans' midfield, and were kept busy trying to keep out their incessant attack. For a while it seemed like we were keen to just defend with our lives and leave Jurong East with a goalless draw.

The resistance was broken after just 26 minutes when Astushi Shimono latched on to Sho Kamimura's pass and slotted the ball home despite the best effort of Ahmadulhaq Che Omar.

Shimono slots the ball underneath Ahmadulhaq to give the hosts the lead.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The goal did not seem to wake Woodlands up as they continued to play with a defensive mindset, while looking to attack on the counter. The only part where Woodlands looked dangerous was during dead ball situations, but the Rams failed to capitalize on their height advantage, much to the relief of Albirex's defence.

The half time break worked wonders for Woodlands as they came out looking rejuvenated, plunging forward in numbers in search for an equalizer. Hussein Akil was presented with a couple of chances as a reward for Woodlands' bodacious surges forward, but despite his best efforts, he failed to send the ball to the back of the net. However, the young Australian never gave up and continued trying his luck with shots from distance.

The second goal by Kunihiro Yamashita happened out of nowhere really, when a floated ball into Woodlands' box caught the entire defence sleeping. Yes, there were shouts for offside, but it would have been a long shot for referee Leow Thiam Hoe to pull back play for one.

Hussein Akil was a real livewire in the second half.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

When Woodlands began to slip the ball through Albirex's seemingly inpenetrable midfield, the Rams gained more confidence with every move they had going forward. The tightly marked Moon Soon-Ho began looking for pockets of space, and the introduction of Neil Vanu meant that Hussein had more breathing space. Moon also let fly with a prospective shot late in the game that was inches away from goal and was unlucky not to score.

The match saw referee Leow Thiam Hoe brandish a total of five yellow cards, with three of them coming within the span of the last ten minutes. For the last quarter of the game, it was deja vu once again for Woodlands' fans as Albirex pulled off a Harimau Muda and started dropping like flies all over the place.

Leow Thiam Hoe was happy to dish out numerous fouls in favour of the Japanese, stopping the game time and again for an infringement-laden 15 minutes. And the White Swans lapped it up, falling at the lightest touch and stopping the match time and again.

Well, the Rams must put this loss behind us, and brace ourselves for the two tough games ahead in the upcoming week. Honestly, the Black Sheep have been outsinging opposing crowds for the last 15 games, and we always give it our best in the stands to spur our boys on despite the outcome of the game.

Perhaps it's time for the squad to take a leaf from our book and show the rest of the league what Woodlands is made of. We have a fantastic squad and we know it. After forgetting the taste of victory after 13 games, wouldn't it be nice for us to flip the season around, starting with Tampines next Tuesday?

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

For more photos of the match, please view Andrew's album here.

Never Surrender!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

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