Albirex win second straight S.League title

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Albirex Niigata (S) were crowned champions of the S.League for a second season in a row following a 5-1 triumph over Warriors FC on Friday.

Tsubasa Sano got the White Swans on their way at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the 13th minute, converting from the spot following a foul on him inside the box.

Sano doubled his tally for the evening two minutes later when he scored on the rebound, after opposition keeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at had initially denied Hiroyoshi Kamata.

Kamata then got in on the act in the 20th minute when he raced onto Kento Nagasaki’s through-pass to finish, although Shahril Ishak did pull one back for Warriors four minutes before halftime after they were awarded a penalty of their own when Jordan Webb was tripped by Tomoki Menda inside the area.

Nonetheless, Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s charges were always in control of proceedings and Sano completed his hat-trick when he converted a Naofumi Tanaka cross at the far post.

And, three minutes from time, an emphatic victory was completed as Sano scored once more from the spot after Andrei Ciolacu was penalised for handball in the box.

The result was enough to see Albirex seal the title with a game in hand as they claimed an unassailable nine-point lead over Tampines Rovers, whose 5-0 win over Brunei DPMM later on Friday evening ultimately proved in vain.

For the second year in a row, the White Swans could also complete the quadruple having already won the Community Shield and League Cup, with a Singapore Cup final date against Philippine outfit Global Cebu to come later this month.

Still, Tampines deserve plenty of credit for producing a dominant display at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, racing to a 3-0 lead at the break courtesy of strikes by Shahdan Sulaiman and Khairul Amri, which sandwiched a Hazwan Hamzah own-goal.

Amri notched his second of the evening six minutes after the hour mark, before Ivan Dzoni came off the bench to add a fifth for the visitors with 11 minutes remaining.

The prize for Tampines is now a guaranteed second-place finish, which is likely to earn them a spot in the preliminary round of next year’s AFC Champions League or – at the very least – a AFC Cup group stage berth.

Photo credit: S.League