White Swans Hit Seven In Title-Winning Party
Written by: Ryan Low
Despite having sewn up the title, Albirex Niigata (S) produced an impressive 7-2 victory over Geylang International at Jalan Besar Stadium on a night when they were presented with the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League trophy.
The White Swans never looked back after breaking the deadlock early in the game and were 4-1 up by half time, before scoring another three after the break to wrap up the victory.
Hot shot Tsubasa Sano helped himself to a hat-trick to lift himself a goal above Home United’s Stipe Plazibat in the race for the Golden Boot.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side got the party started in the 14th minute, with Hyundai Player of the Year nominee Kento Nagasaki whipping home a belter from the edge of the box after a Geylang defensive mistake.
The lead was doubled on 29 minutes, with Hiroyoshi Kamata going on a superb virtuoso run that took him past two defenders before firing home a left-footed shot which proved too hot for Syazwan Buhari to handle.
Sano got into the act three minutes later, taking down Kamata’s right-wing cross before prodding home from six yards out.
The duo combined again to put the White Swans 4-0 up on 44 minutes, with Sano heading home a pinpoint Kamata cross into the box.
Geylang would pull one back just before the break, with Shahfiq Ghani thumping home from the spot after Ricardo Sendra was fell in the area.
However, it was normal service 15 minutes into the second half as Sano completed his hat-trick with another header off Naofumi Tanaka’s left-wing cross - putting him one goal ahead of Plazibat on 26.
The goals kept coming, with the best of the lot coming on 66 minutes. Playmaker Nagasaki pounced on another Geylang defensive lapse to surge into the box, before producing a deft lob over Syazwan from just inside the area to make it 6-1.
Albirex scored a seventh on 74 minutes with centre-back Yasutaka Yanagi heading home off Nagasaki’s left-wing cross, before Geylang pulled one back five minutes later through Yuki Ichikawa’s close-range volley.
The Eagles eventually lost 7-2, but still sealed fourth spot due to nearest challengers Warriors FC’s failure to beat Hougang United in the other game.
Geylang International Head Coach Noor Ali: “Albirex showed why they’re the true champions, they’re just too good. Even though they have already won the title, they still showed the desire and fighting spirit like they’re still chasing for it.
“In the first half, we tried to sit back and conceded four. In the second half, we tried to attack them and conceded three. There’s just no way to match them. It was the longest 90 minutes ever as a player or coach, I just wanted the final whistle to come.
“But the last six months (in charge) has been good. I learned a lot of things as I was just coaching youths before this. I’m happy that we finished in the top four for the first time in 14 years.”
Albirex Niigata (S) Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “I didn’t say anything special to them, I just told them to go out there and try your best because there’s still the RHB Singapore Cup final coming up. The players tried to help Sano to get more goals, but I’m happy some of them got on the scoresheet as well.
“I’m not happy that we conceded two goals through set plays and we need to work on them before we play the Cup final. Global’s a disciplined and professional team, so the job is not done yet for us.
“I just want to take this opportunity to thank the S.League for the good season and most importantly the supporters because the league cannot go on without them.”
Geylang International: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Yuki Ichikawa, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Daren Teh, Faritz Hameed, Nor Azli Yusoff (C), Noor Ariff (Gabriel Quak 46’), Ricardo Sendra, Safirul Sulaiman (Amy Recha 46’), Shahfiq Ghani (Ifwat Ismail 71’), Victor Coto
Albirex Niigata (S): Jumpei Yamada (GK), Tomoki Menda, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Ryuya Motoda 72’), Shuto Inaba (C), Yuuki Yamanouchi, Kento Nagasaki (Rui Kumada 77’), Ryota Nakai, Tsubasa Sano