DPMM FC advanced into the semi-finals of the Singapore Cup as Group ‘B’ winners and dumped defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) out of the competition after a 1-0 win at the Jurong East Stadium in Singapore last night.
Having been excused from the squad for the Hougang United tie last week, DPMM FC midfielder Azwan Ali Rahman made his return in style after his stunning strike clinched a narrow win.
The league champions started strong as DPMM FC midfielder Blake Ricciuto unleashed a fine effort on target, which Albirex Niigata (S) goalkeeper Kengo Fukudome parried away for a corner.
The Gegar Gegar men came agonisingly close for the opening goal of the game as defender Charlie Clough unluckily brushed against the post after escaping the attentions of his marker.
DPMM FC forward Andrei Varankou whipped in a good ball into the path of his returning strike partner Abdul Azizi Ali Rahman and the latter fired his volley wide.
The Brunei-based outfit got the breakthrough after local star Azwan Ali belted a screamer in the 11th minute, catching Fukudome by surprise.
Albirex’s patience in passing nearly ended with a reward but striker Hiroyoshi Kamata’s initial threat was deflected away for a corner.
Azwan initiated the threat with his dribbling in midfield and released a pass for the advancing Fakharrazi Hassan who could not find the right connection.
Varankou took a shot on the turn while in the other end Albirex’s captain Kyoga Nakamura’s shot was too central for the in-form DPMM FC goalkeeper Wardun Yussof.
The magnificent Azwan produced an appetising cross into the box but Varankou could not keep his volley down in a similar technique which was attempted by Abdul Azizi earlier.
The reigning holders came close to an equaliser via a set-piece as Albirex midfielder Kaishu Yamazaki curled a free-kick into the side-netting.
There were no arguments in the White Swans camp as Daizo Horikoshi’s goal was correctly ruled out.
In the other end, Clough demonstrated his aerial threat with his header which flew just wide.
After good work in the visiting defence, DPMM FC’s Abdul Azizi ballooned his shot into the skies after being set up by Varankou in the dying seconds of the first half.
The visitors enjoyed a good spell early in the second half as Ricciuto glanced his header wide following good work on the flanks from Abdul Mu’iz Sisa.
DPMM FC substitute Adi Said continued the attacking threat but his shot was blocked away for a corner.
Nakamura struck his shot with conviction but not the accuracy as it sailed wide.
Kamata unleashed a fine strike after creating space but Wardun produced an excellent save to deny the forward.
Another chance went begging for Albirex as Horikoshi headed the ball past the upright after receiving a good cross from substitute Naruki Takahashi.
Yamazaki’s sweetly struck volley looked to have sneaked into goal but Wardun was equal to the task with a smart save.
Nakamura had the ball at the back of the net but the whistle had already been blown after Souta Sugiyama was penalised for handball.
Horikoshi had another chance to aid his side into the final qualifying spot but he contrived to shoot wide from close range amid a crowded DPMM FC box.
Geylang International FC will join DPMM FC in the semi-finals after a 2-0 win over Hougang United in the other group match. The Eagles had started the tie at the bottom of the group.
Meanwhile in Group ‘A’, Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC will be in the last four after a 3-0 win over Home United and a goalless draw against Balestier Khalsa, respectively.