White Swans Hit Four To Dismantle Stags
Written by: Ryan Low
Defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) thrashed nearest title challenger Tampines Rovers 4-0 at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night to go 12 points clear at the top of the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League table, albeit having played two games more.
Three goals in the first 22 minutes all but settled the affair, with White Swans confirming their victory with a late strike in the second-half
It could have been all so different if Tampines had finished off an opportunity in the seventh minute.
Hafiz Sujad had space in the box to drill in a shot after a one-two with Khairul Amri, but the former BBCU winger fired wide of the post with his weaker right foot.
Albirex were simply too clinical as they opened the floodgates in the 12th minute. Kento Nagasaki curled home a trademark free kick from the edge of the box after Ryota Nakai was fell by Madhu Mohana.
The White Swans doubled their lead four minutes later, with Nakai’s speculative 30-yard drive fumbled into goal by Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side were 3-0 up by 22 minutes, with centre-back Yasutaka Yanagi powering home a header from Nagasaki’s outswinging corner.
Tampines coach Jurgen Raab reacted by throwing on Fazrul Nawaz to replace captain Fahrudin Mustafic, with the former joining Amri in a two-prong attack but they were frustrated by a disciplined Albirex backline.
There was an excellent opportunity to pull one back on 64 minutes with Ryutaro Megumi stealing possession off Shuto Inaba to tee up Amri, but the latter somehow curled wide of the right-hand post with just Yosuke Nozawa to beat.
Hafiz then lashed a 25-yard piledriver over seven minutes later before Albirex grabbed their fourth in the 83rd minute.
After dispossessing Son Yong Chan in the attacking third, Inaba released Nakai through on goal and the 22-year-old did the rest with a confident finish into the bottom right corner.
This was the White Swans’ tenth straight win in all competitions as they now sit on the summit with a considerably huge lead.
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “Our target at the beginning of the season is to surpass what we did last year, so there’s no time for me to be happy (even though we have now scored more goals than last season). We have not reached our ultimate goal.
“I’m emphasising to the players to work harder (in the upcoming matches) because the teams will fight hard to get the win over us. This is just the third round and there are more fights coming along. We have to keep our discipline and shape till the end, continue to make sacrifices and show the values I want for the team.”
Tampines Rovers Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “I can only say 11 shots (in the last three games against Albirex), 11 goals – 100 percent conversion, fantastic. We had excellent chances and were not able to score, that’s the difference.
“We made defensive mistakes, then we were always chasing the game. It’s a question of quality, we were not able to find the solution and it’s a process for me to learn for next season.
“The gap (between us and Albirex) is too far. We must hope for other teams to do the job, but it’s better for us to focus on the battle on second place now.”
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuyu Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda, Rui Kumada, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Koki Sato 90’), Shoichiro Sakamoto (Shoma Kondo 87’)
Tampines Rovers: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Madhu Mohana, Fahrudin Mustafic (C) (Fazrul Nawaz 34’), Daniel Bennett, Ismadi Mukhtar, Son Yong Chan, Shahdan Sulaiman (Faizal Raffi 46’), Shakir Hamzah, Ryutaro Megumi, Hafiz Sujad, Khairul Amri (Jamil Ali 77’)