Singapore Premier League • May 28, 2018

Stunning Morinaga treble leads five-star Albirex past Balestier


The league leaders made it 10 straight wins in a row to maintain their perfect start.

Taku Morinaga (right) ended his goal drought in style.

SINGAPORE, 28 MAY 2018There is no stopping the Albirex Niigata FC (S) express and hapless Balestier Khalsa FC 5-0 were the latest to be steamrollered on Sunday night as they were thrashed 5-0.

Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s men showed no mercy as they achieved their 10th straight Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) win to go 17 points clear at the top, which also made it 31 wins in all competitions at their Jurong East Stadium home.

Taku Morinaga ended a four-match barren streak in fine style with a stunning hat-trick, while Shuhei Hoshino and Hiroyoshi Kamata also helped themselves to a goal each in a one-sided top-of-the-table SPL clash.

Balestier would have gone behind minutes after kick-off if not for goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, who parried Ryujiro Yamanaka’s snapshot from a tight angle before getting down low to repel Hoshino’s goal-bound header from Kenya Takahashi’s left-wing cross.

But it did not take long for the deadlock to be broken. On 10 minutes, Morinaga sped past two defenders before producing the perfect cut-back from the right byline for Hoshino to slam in his league-leading 10th goal of the season.

The hosts proceeded to lay siege to the Tigers’ goal, but Hoshino twice shot off target, with Morinaga, Kaishu Yamazaki and Wataru Murofushi all doing likewise.

Balestier could only muster in response efforts from Vedran Mesec and Keegan Linderboom but like their counterparts in orange, these were wide too.

The White Swans were not as wasteful after the break though.

Five minutes into the second half, Balestier failed to clear their lines from a corner and the loose ball fell to Morinaga on the edge of the box, who curled a stunning drive that arched into the top right corner.

Balestier should have pulled one back on 55 minutes when Linderboom knocked on Zaiful’s goal-kick, but substitute Hazzuwan Halim lobbed over with just Albirex custodian Yohsuke Nozawa to beat.

The game was then put to bed in a five-minute blitz that started on 68 minutes with Yamanaka bamboozling his marker on the left, before crossing into the area for Kamata to nod into the bottom left corner and make it 3-0.

Three minutes later, Yamanaka produced his fourth assist of the season by delivering the ball from a short throw for Morinaga to thump in a rising drive into the top right corner.

Morinaga then rounded off a superb individual night in the 73rd minute as he ran onto Daiki Asaoka’s defence-splitting pass before smashing the ball in from a tight angle to make it five.

A first clean sheet in four matches was kept too by Nozawa, who saved Mesec’s penalty two minutes from time after the latter was fouled by Shuhei Sasahara.

The visitors dropped down to third after Tampines Rovers FC leapfrogged them on goal difference following a 2-1 win over Geylang International FC in the night’s other match.

Albirex Head Coach Yoshinaga: “When we faced Balestier the first time this season in April, it was a tight game and we only managed to win by an own goal. So this game represented an opportunity for me to see how (much) my players matured and improved in the past two months. And secondly we conceded three goals against Tampines (Rovers FC) so I want us to correct those mistakes.

“Morinaga could score (three) because he worked hard in training. When we set the 20-goal target for him, some people may laugh at it but it’s important for him to keep working hard to achieve it. For me, the most difficult thing is to keep telling my players that there is room for improvement and they must always work hard to go up another level. Today we won 5-0, but I want them to forget this result today and work hard again tomorrow.”

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “Yes it’s a one-sided game. We were struggling to cope with their wide players and there were too many crosses coming in. At half time I told them (being) 1-0 (down) was a good result. Second half, I put in Hazzuwan to give us more options and that gave them (Albirex) more space to attack. Then the goals start to come in and we lost our heads. Even the penalty we could not score, so everything was not in our side tonight.

“Yes it’s looking like Albirex are already champions and that’s the reality. They’re playing well and their artificial pitch gives them an advantage at home. But second and third place is anybody’s game. We’re fighting to be the best local club because there’s the opportunity to play in AFC (competitions).”

Albirex: Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Riku Moriyasu, Shuhei Sasahara, Kaishu Yamazaki (Kazuki Sumiishi 90’), Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Kodai Sumikawa 86’), Daiki Asaoka, Wataru Murofushi (C), Ryujiro Yamanaka, Taku Morinaga, Shuhei Hoshino.
Unused subs: Shahul Rayyan (GK), Taiki Itsukaichi (GK), Ryuji Yamauchi, Ibuki Inoue, Ryutaro Shibanoki.

Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK)(C), Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Sufianto Salleh, Ahmad Syahir, Nurisham Jupri (Hazzuwan Halim 46’), Afiq Salman Tan, Huzaifah Aziz (Khairuddin Omar 78’), Vedran Mesec, Noor Akid Nordin (Akbar Shah Zainudeen 79’), Keegan Linderboom.
Unused subs: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Khalili Khalif, Fariz Faizal, Daniel Hazreel.

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