Singapore Premier League • July 18, 2018

Albirex one win away from retaining title after breezing past Young Lions


The champions suffered a brief scare, but recovered to win 5-1 and will win the league with another victory.

Albirex Niigata FC (S) attacker Taku Morinaga (right) celebrates his equaliser.

SINGAPORE, 18 JULY 2018 – Albirex Niigata FC (S) have one hand on the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) trophy after smashing Young Lions 5-1 on Wednesday night at the Jurong East Stadium.

The victory was their 17th in as many games this season and put them on the brink of a third consecutive league crown, which they can clinch by beating Balestier Khalsa FC this Sunday.

Despite entering the as huge favourites, Albirex fell behind shortly after the half-hour mark courtesy of a clinical strike by Hami Syahin.

However, goals by Kenya Takahashi and Taku Morinaga had the deficit overturned by half-time and from then on, there was no looking back as further strikes by Shuhei Hoshino, Morinaga and Daiki Asaoka saw them score more than four times in a match for the sixth occasion this season.

The visitors did become the first team to take the lead against Albirex this season, after Takahashi had seen his free-kick well saved by Zharfan Rohaizad on 19 minutes.

Three minutes past the half-hour mark and against the run of play, the Young Lions drew first blood when Zulqarnaen Suzliman’s right-wing cross found Hami, who did brilliantly to control the ball before executing a spectacular volley that sailed over Yohsuke Nozawa.

Still, their lead lasted barely two minutes. Takahashi rampaged down the left and his 30-yard strike bounced off the turf before skimming off Zharfan’s arms and into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the campaign.

Seven minutes before the break, Albirex found themselves ahead in an unlikely manner as a first-time delivery by Riku Moriyasu fell perfectly on the head of Morinaga – the smallest man on the field – and his textbook glancing header flew into the bottom left corner.

It took a while for the third goal to arrive despite the hosts dominance, but the quality of it was worth the wait.

On 70 minutes, the outstanding Takahashi played a 50-yard pass from inside his own half over the static Young Lions defence for Hoshino, who raced onto the ball and coolly finished past Zharfan for his league-leading 18th goal.

Nine minutes later, Albirex’s Singaporean star Adam Swandi came back to haunt his former team. A lovely reverse pass on the edge of the area released Morinaga, who neatly slotted home for his second goal of the evening.

In the final minute, the rout was completed when Asaoka was afforded too much space and he proceeded to lash a speculative 20-yard effort past Zharfan at the near post.

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “Tonight’s match was our worst performance this season so we have to change our mindset and improve our performance, so that we will never have such a performance again. If we have these kind of bad matches, we don’t have a future. We have to be professional and we have to do what we can do. That’s all for today; we are going to prepare again for our next matches.”

Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “Obviously, we are disappointed because we wanted to hold them in the first half . In four minutes, they scored two goals and it was because we lost concentration. We had good discipline and we did our best until the 37th minute.

“After the first goal, we crumbled as they (the team) lost a bit of confidence in the last five minutes of the first half. In the second half, they really stretched us. We lost to a better team and congratulations to them, they deserve it…

“It’s a disappointment because the boys (had) played better in the last few games… to lose at this scoreline is quite disappointing; the score doesn’t tell the true story. We will try again and fight another day.

“I don’t think our local teams can match them at the moment. They are not even drawing games. I’m sure they will retain the title, throughout the year they have been the best so far.”

Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Riku Moriyasu, Shuhei Sasahara, Shun Kumagai, Kenya Takahashi, Daiki Asaoka, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Ryujiro Yamanaka, Taku Morinaga, Adam Swandi, Shuhei Hoshino.
Unused subs: Taiki Itsukaichi (GK), Shahul Rayyan (GK), Kazuya Kojima, Ryutaro Shibanoki, Kodai Sumikawa, Ryuji Yamauchi, Kazuki Sumiishi.

Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Jacob Mahler, Amer Hakeem (Nazhiim Harman 74’), R. Aaravin, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Syed Firdaus, Rusyaidi Salime (Ikhsan Fandi 69’), Syahrul Sazali, Joshua Pereira, Haiqal Pashia (Asshukrie Wahid 80′), Hami Syahin.
Unused subs: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Naufal Azman, Prakash Raj, Amirul Hakim.