Singapore Premier League • July 14, 2018

Shuhei Hoshino double slays Tampines as Albirex close in on title


The league’s top scorer took his tally to 17 goals in 16 games as they won 2-1

Albirex striker Shuhei Hoshino celebrates after scoring the first goal.

SINGAPORE, 14 JULY 2018 – Albirex Niigata FC (S) are potentially a win away from sealing the 2018 Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) title after edging Tampines Rovers FC 2-1 in a top-of-the-table clash at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night.

Shuhei Hoshino scored early in each half to put Albirex in the driving seat, before Khairul Amri scored late on to give Tampines a glimmer of hope.

However the White Swans would hold on for their 16th successive win of the season to preserve their 100 per cent record this season and extend their winning streak at Jurong East to an incredible 35 games.

The result put them 19 points clear of second-placed Tampines and Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side could seal the title as early as next Wednesday. For that to happen, they have to beat Young Lions at home and Tampines need to lose to Brunei DPMM FC away in Bandar Seri Begawan.

After losing the first two head-to-head encounters this season due to last-gasp goals, Tampines were bent on getting revenge.

But any well-laid plans were ripped up when Albirex broke the deadlock after just 50 seconds,

Receiving Taku Morinaga’s pass, Adam Swandi advanced into the area before putting in a teasing ball that caused chaos, with Hoshino stealing in to slot home from eight yards.

The White Swans almost doubled their lead on 21 minutes as Daiki Asaoka’s long-range effort crashed off the left-hand post before bouncing to safety.

Tampines tried to hit back as Jordan Webb slipped Zulfadhmi Suzliman into an excellent position in the area, but the latter’s powerful snapshot was beaten away by Albirex goalkeeper Yohsuke Nozawa.

Juergen Raab’s side went close again on 39 minutes when Ryutaro Megumi skinned Kenya Takahashi on the right flank, but his left-footed effort went horribly wide.

Zulfadhmi then attempted to catch Nozawa out at his near post with a shot from an acute angle, but the latter managed to tip the effort onto the post.

Albirex took just six minutes to double their advantage after the break.

Hiroyoshi Kamata lifted the ball across the area from the right byline, where Hoshino had the presence of mind to produce a cushioned finish into the bottom left corner.

That was the 23-year-old’s 17th goal of the season in 16 games, five clear at the top of the Golden Boot chart.

The goal seemingly crushed Tampines’ spirits as they hardly created any meaningful goalscoring opportunities in the entire second 45 minutes.

Albirex created a glut of chances to extend the scoreline, but were let down by a combination of profligate finishing and good goalkeeping.

Syazwan did well to palm away Captain Wataru Murofushi’s shot from the edge of the box on 68 minutes, before stopping Ryujiro Yamanaka’s speculative 20-yard drive six minutes later.

Tampines somehow pulled one back a minute from time, with Amri tapping home from a yard out after Jordan Webb’s mazy run took out four defenders.

The Stags went agonisingly close to finding an equaliser deep into injury time, but substitute Faizal Raffi’s spectacular overhead kick went straight to Nozawa.

Albirex eventually held on for the three points and they are now within touching distance of a third straight league crown.

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “It’s a game which both sides did not want to lose and I’m happy we won the game. My players did well to find space and score in the first minute. Even then, we did not think it will be an easy game for us.

“Today we put (Hiroyoshi) Kamata to cover the space and not let Tampines get their passes in so easily. It worked well until that goal went in. I was actually surprised about that… I think probably (Daiki) Asaoka is not a natural centre-back. Probably he took Jordan (Webb) too lightly and his cover did not do properly to help him out. It’s more of a defensive mistake.

“We still must win two more games (to seal the title), so we’re not very close. Even after we win it, we will continue to work and improve.”

Tampines Head Coach Juergen Raab: “I can only say it’s always the same procedure – Albirex are a strong team. If they take the lead, it’s much more difficult to do something.  We gave them a present (in the first minute) and there was some chances later in the first half, which we must finish.

“Second half, I told them ‘please don’t sleep’ in the beginning. But (Amirul) Adli wasn’t watching his man, Albirex brought the ball forward and they scored. But in the end, I’m happy with their effort. We had problems – Yasir (Hanapi), Irfan (Najeeb) were suspended, Hafiz (Sujad) hasn’t played a lot this season, Daniel (Bennett) had a back problem earlier in the week, Farra (Mustafic) was sick and he told me he can only play 50 minutes.”

Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Riku Moriyasu, Shuhei Sasahara, Daiki Asaoka, Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Wataru Murofushi (C), Adam Swandi, Ryujiro Yamanaka, Taku Morinaga (Shun Kumagai 90’+2), Shuhei Hoshino.
Unused subs: Shahul Rayyan (GK), Taiki Itsukaichi (GK), Kazuki Sumiishi, Kodai Sumikawa, Ryuji Yamauchi, Ryutaro Shibanoki.

Tampines: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Shameer Aziq, Fahrudin Mustafic (C) (Madhu Mohana 62’), Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah, Ryutaro Megumi, Amirul Adli, Hafiz Sujad (Faizal Raffi, 80’), Jordan Webb, Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Shah Shahiran 80’), Khairul Amri.
Unused subs: Hariz Farid (GK), Haziq Razzali, Ryhan Stewart.