S.League: Albirex on the brink with only Tampines left in their way

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Albirex Niigata (S) all but secured a second successive S.League title following a 3-0 win over Balestier Khalsa on Thursday evening.

Tsubasa Sano got the White Swans on their way at the Toa Payoh Stadium in the 13th minute, latching onto Ryota Nakai’s deft through-pass before lashing a shot past Zaiful Nizam.

Hiroyoshi Kamata then made it 2-0 six minutes before the interval, cutting in from the left and unleashing a 25-yard effort that Zaiful got a hand to but could not keep out.

2017 S.League 22nd Leg #albirex_s #sleague #sleague2017 #albirex #singapore #アルビレックス新潟 #sgfootball

A post shared by Albirex Niigata FC (Singapore) (@albirexsingapore) on

A minute from time, the result was put beyond doubt courtesy of an acrobatic strike by Nakai, who volleyed the rebound home in midair after Sano’s initial effort had come back off the bar.

The result sees Albirex retain their six-point lead at the summit with just two games remaining, although it will take something of a miracle to deny them given they boast a superior goal difference of 22 over their closest rivals.

The only team that still have a mathematical chance of catching them are Tampines Rovers, after they defeated Garena Young Lions 3-0 at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday.

The deadlock was broken in the eighth minute when a brilliant cross by Shahdan Sulaiman was met by Shannon Stephen with a powerful header into the back of the net.

The Stags were then given some breathing space in the 77th minute when Hafiz Abu Sujad scored with a fine effort, before Daniel Bennett nodded home a corner five minutes later to seal the victory.

Initially, Home United were also still in with a chance of catching Albirex although that was ended with the leaders beating Balestier.

To add to Home’s misery, they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Uniform Derby rivals Warriors FC the following evening.

It was the Warriors who drew first blood at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium in the 27th minute when Andrei Ciolacu capitalised on a mistake by Iqram Rifqi, racing through and scoring on the rebound after his initial effort had been saved by Hassan Sunny.

Hard fought victory last night ?⚽️ #warriorsfc #sleague #nike #nikesg @farisramli u okay bro? ?

A post shared by Emmeric Ong (@emmeric08) on

Home did however manage to pull level four minutes after the half-hour mark; M. Anumanthan reacting quickest to a loose ball inside the box to poke home from six yards out.

But, two minutes later, Suria Prakash restored the hosts’ lead as he headed home a pinpoint freekick from Baihakki Khaizan, which ultimately proved enough to hand Warriors maximum points.

Friday’s other game saw Shawal Anuar net a brace to inspire Geylang International to a 4-1 win over Brunei DPMM, continuing the Eagles’ good recent run of form with their fifth win in seven outings.

Photo credit: S.League