Albirex Niigata FC (S) became the first Singapore Premier League side to go a whole season unbeaten after a 2-1 win over Warriors FC at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Saturday evening.
The win, courtesy of goals from Wataru Murofushi and Shun Kumagai despite Kento Fukuda’s equaliser, meant the White Swans collected 21 wins and three draws in the 2018 campaign.
The match endured a cagey first half, with both sides going about their business cautiously.
Yet Warriors could have taken the lead twice in the 18th and 22nd minute respectively, only for Fukuda and Khairul Nizam to miss from close range.
They paid the price for it in the 24th minute, as Murofushi opened the scoring with an effort from distance.
However, Warriors managed to find a way back into the match, after Fukuda was fouled by Hiroyoshi Kamata and the latter duly levelled matters with the resulting spot kick.
The second half proved to be more open and Warriors will rue their missed chances, as it could so easily have been a trouncing for Albirex instead.
Nizam was released by Jonathan Behe in the 51st minute but with only Yohsuke Nozawa to beat, he sliced his shot into the side-netting.
Just a minute later, the striker enjoyed a similar opportunity and this time managed to beat the goalkeeper but Shuhei Sasahara had the last laugh with his goal-saving clearance.
Adam Swandi then rattled the bar at the other end, before an unmarked Sahil Suhaimi could only divert his header towards Nozawa in the 54th minute.
Albirex would take the lead again in the 57th minute, with Kumagai beating Mukundan Maran to Riku Moriyasu’s cross to head in his fourth goal of the season.
Despite going behind, the hosts continued their profligacy in front of goal and Behe could only hit straight at Nozawa in the 59th minute after Shamil Sharif’s ball fell for him inside the box.
The Frenchman would miss another chance in the 68th minute, this time failing to even hit the target despite being at point-blank range.
Adam tried to increase his side’s lead with a drilled shot in the 71st minute, but Mukundan made a good low save to keep his team in the game.
Warriors FC Head Coach Mirko Grabovac: “Every game same, we had a lot of chances, most of the game we were the better team, and from two cross we conceded.
“I cannot believe we didn’t get the win with the chances we had. We are fifth in the table, Albirex is the best team in Singapore but our last two games we showed we were close to them. I really cannot believe it, if you have seen the number of chances we had, I cannot believe why we can lose games. Today was a good chance to beat Albirex, at least for 70 minutes we played better than them.”
Albirex Niigata FC (S) Head Coach Yoshinaga Kazuaki: “The league has just been completed but we still have two more tough games and do well in the cup game.
“I think for our players, this is the third consecutive match in one week and it was a difficult match for my players because they were tired but they did well today. They have worked very hard to remain unbeaten.
“We just treated each game as it came along, we also have three draws so this unbeaten season is nothing to boast about. When we set out to play, we want to win every match, if we don’t win we have to reflect because a professional player should set out to win every match.
“Last year’s players and this year’s players are different so I don’t want to compare.”
Warriors FC: Mukundan Maran (GK), Kento Fukuda (C), Delwinder Singh, Ammirul Emmran, Shamil Sharif, Sahil Suhaimi, Ignatius Ang (Nur Luqman 83’), Khairul Nizam, Hafiz Sulaiman (Firdaus Kasman 66’), Fadhil Noh (Jonathan Behe 46’), Tajeli Salamat
Albirex Niigata FC (S): Yohsuke Nozawa (GK), Shuhei Sasahara, Shun Kumagai, Kaishu Yamazaki, Daiki Asaoka, Riku Moriyasu, Wataru Murofushi (C), Adam Swandi, Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Ryujiro Yamanaka 78’), Taku Morinaga