Albirex maul Young Lions to go six points clear
Young Lions outclassed as White Swans extend lead at the top
ALBIREX NIIGATA 3
(Tatsuro Inui 15, Atsushi Kawata 28, Kento Nagasaki 79)
GARENA YOUNG LIONS 0
They were expected to stroll to victory and Albirex Niigata did just that last night, easily overcoming a limp Garena Young Lions side 3-0 at the Jurong East Stadium to bag their fifth successive win and move six points clear at the top of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League standings.
Strikes by Tatsuro Inui, Kento Nagasaki and the season's leading scorer, Atsushi Kawata - his 10th of the campaign - condemned the national development side to their ninth loss on the trot.
Despite the comfortable win, Albirex coach Naruki Naruo felt his side could have been more potent in front of goal.
"We should have been able to show a more aggressive style of football today, so I'm disappointed with the way we played," he said.
"We were very good in defence, but we made too many back-passes in offence; we could have shown more penetration in the attacking third."
Albirex's game plan was clear from the start, spreading the ball across to their marauding fullbacks Naofumi Tanaka and Tomoki Menda.
Their patient wing play bore fruit 15 minutes into the game, when Kawata found Inui unmarked in the box.
The latter had time to shift the ball to his favoured left foot before curling a delightful effort into the top corner.
The White Swans went two up 13 minutes later as the pair combined again to devastating effect.
Inui turned provider this time, crossing for Kawata who sent a glancing header into the bottom corner.
By then, it was all Albirex as the visitors were forced to defend deep in their own half. Nagasaki could have finished the game off before half-time, but his free-kick went narrowly wide.
The Young Lions, who barely had a shot on target all evening, sent on veteran international striker Khairul Amri 13 minutes after the break to add some much-needed firepower up front.
While the substitution spurred the visitors to keep better possession of the ball, they remained susceptible to lapses in concentration at the back.
Nagasaki again had a chance to add a third after Taufiq Muqminin was dispossessed deep in his own half, but could only thunder his shot against the crossbar when one-on-one against Young Lions custodian, Benjamin Bertrand.
The Japanese eventually got his goal 11 minutes from time, when his tricky free-kick from the left evaded everyone before sailing into the net.
The hosts could have added a fourth near the end when Inui deftly chipped the ball over Bertrand, only to see it clip the post before going wide.
Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse said Albirex were simply unstoppable once they got into their rhythm.
"If you try to defend on the right, they attack from the left. We tried to play very deep in the first half, but we were not aggressive enough," he said.
"Albirex can slow down the game and suddenly play very quickly; they are a very difficult team to play against."
The Frenchman felt his side could have prevented a couple of the goals, though.
"For the second goal, we let the guy cross too easily and, for the third goal, we shouldn't have made the foul as they are very good at set-pieces," he noted.
"We didn't have many opportunities to score because our final pass was not good and our attackers didn't make enough runs from deep."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH:
Tatsuro Inui (Albirex Niigata)
- ALBIREX NIIGATA: Yosuke Nozawa, Tomoki Menda (Masaya Jitozono 79), Mikiya Yamada, Atsushi Shirota, Kento Fujihara, Naofumi Tanaka, Tatsuro Inui, Kento Nagasaki, Shuto Inaba (Tadaaki Yazawa 87), Kazuki Mine (Hiroyoshi Kamata 58), Atsushi Kawata
- GARENA YOUNG LIONS: Benjamin Bertrand, Zakir Shamsudin (Irfan Asyraf 58), Taufiq Muqminin (Ashrul Syafeeq 87), Amirul Adli, Rusyaidi Salime, Joshua Pereira, Hami Syahin, Firdaus Kasman, Ammirul Emmran, Fareez Farhan, Hazim Faiz (Khairul Amri 62)