Albirex go four points clear after late show
After goalless 45 minutes, Albirex go full throttle for four goals
ALBIREX NIIGATA 4
(Tomoki Menda 46, Kento Nagasaki 84, 90+3, Tatsuro Inui 90)
GARENA YOUNG LIONS 0
At one point, it looked as though Albirex Niigata's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title bid would be dealt another blow last night.
Nonetheless, after failing to find a way past bottom side Garena Young Lions in the opening 45 minutes, the White Swans found their groove to record a 4-0 win at Jurong East Stadium and move four points clear at the top of the table.
Their lead could be reduced to a solitary point once more if second-placed Tampines Rovers beat Warriors FC tonight, but Albirex coach Naoki Naruo was a satisfied man as his team returned to winning ways following last week's 2-1 loss to Brunei DPMM.
"I thought it was a very difficult game for us and they (Young Lions) deserve credit because I thought they defended well," said Naruo.
"We should have been better but, because of last week's defeat, we took some time to find our rhythm.
"I don't want to think about how many points we are ahead of Tampines… We will just focus on winning all our remaining games."
Naruo also hailed the importance of Tomoki Menda's spectacular opener, which came right after the break following Albirex's struggles to carve apart the opposition defence.
They had a couple of sightings at goal in the first half with Rui Kumada's powerful header coming back off the bar, while Atsushi Kawata forced Fashah Iskandar into flying save with a ferocious 25-metre drive.
Less than a minute after the restart, Menda produced a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock, finding space just inside the area and unleashing a dipping strike from a difficult angle into the top corner.
Any hopes the visitors had of mounting a comeback were however effectively ended in the 81st minute when they had Shannon Stephen sent off.
Just three minutes later, Kento Nagasaki pounced on an underhit backpass by Ashrul Syafeeq to race through and blast his shot past Fashah.
Tatsuro Inui added the third in the 90th minute. Deep into injury-time, the rout was completed when Inui floated an inch-perfect cross to the far post, where an unmarked Nagasaki was on hand to nod home his side's fourth of the evening.
Despite the heavy defeat, Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse believes they had improved from their previous insipid display in a 3-1 defeat by Balestier Khalsa.
The Frenchman said: "There were more positives than negatives in this game, especially after how we didn't show anything last week.
"For one half, we competed well against, for me, the best team in the competition.
"We have six more games left in the season, but I never speak to the players about winning or losing.
"We only think about playing well tactically, technically, mentally and physically and it's most important we show that in the remaining games."