Albirex maul Tigers for six
Albirex blitz Tigers and send an emphatic message to the rest of the competition
ALBIREX NIIGATA 6
(Atsushi Shirota 7, Hiroyoshi Kamata 28, 81, Naofumi Tanaka, 54 Tatsuro Inui 57, Kento Nagasaki 66)
BALESTIER KHALSA 0
They were on a five-match unbeaten run, scoring 11 goals while conceding only one.
And Albirex Niigata extended their impressive streak in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last night, after an emphatic 6-0 victory over lowly Balestier Khalsa in front of 1,428 fans at the Jurong East Stadium.
The White Swans, who are targeting the S.League title, dished out some of their best football all season as they outclassed the timid Tigers.
Despite their barnstorming performance, Albirex coach Naruki Naruo insisted that there was still a long way to go yet.
He said after the match: "All of the games that we have played this season have been difficult and there are still many more games left.
"Anything can happen from now till then, so we have to take it one game at a time and then we can think about winning titles."
But he also made sure to give credit where it was due.
"I agree that this is one of our best performances this season. We played well for the full 90 minutes and everyone in the team did well individually and as a unit," he said.
Albirex dominated the game from start to finish with their intricate passing and patient build-up play down the flanks.
Marauding wingback Naofumi Tanaka was the catalyst for most of their attacks.
The White Swans opened the scoring in the seventh minute via a Kento Nagasaki corner.
Nobody in a Balestier jersey picked up Albirex defender Atsushi Shirota, who made a last-minute dash into the six-yard box to head home Nagasaki's delivery.
Balestier came close to equalising in the 19th minute but Fadhil Noh could only slash his half-shot wide.
From then on, it was all Albirex as they piled the pressure on the hapless Tigers.
Their pressure paid off in the 28th minute when the effervescent Tanaka went on another of his lung-busting runs down the left flank before drilling an inviting pass across the face of the six-yard box.
Forward Hiroyoshi Kamata duly stabbed the ball home to double their lead.
Kamata thought he had doubled his tally in the 38th minute after Zaiful palmed Atsushi Kawata's free-kick into his path but his subsequent finish was ruled offside.
It all went downhill for Balestier in the 42nd minute when referee Farhad Mohamad pointed to the spot and sent Hanafi Salleh off after he yanked Tanaka to the ground in the penalty box.
However, Tatsuro Inui was unable to convert the spot-kick, smashing the ball off the upright.
The Albirex show continued in the second half as the White Swans imposed their numerical superiority.
Tanaka came to the fore yet again with another run and, this time he went all the way, sidestepping several challenges before coolly curling the ball with his weaker right foot into the back of the net to make it 3-0 in the 54th minute.
Inui scored three minutes later after he rose well to connect with Shuto Inaba's well-weighted delivery.
A visibly disheartened Balestier side could not stop the White Swans from extending their lead in the 66th minute. Nagasaki slotted home after receiving Inaba's defence-splitting pass.
Albirex added gloss to their scorline in the 81st minute, when Kamata completed his brace after slamming substitute Kazuki Mine's missed header into the back of the net.
Not surprisingly, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic was in a sombre mood after the match.
He said: "It was very tough for us tonight.
"I made some tactical changes during the game to try and contain them but it didn't work, so I take full responsibility for the loss today."
- ALBIREX: Yosuke Nozawa, Tomoki Menda (Rui Kamada 53), Mikiya Yamada, Atsushi Shirota, Kento Fujihara, Naofumi Tanaka, Shuto Inaba, Tatsuro Inui (Masaya Jitozono 79), Kento Nagasaki, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Atsushi Kawata
- BALESTIER: Zaiful Nizam (Daniel Ong 46), Fadil Kamis, Hanafi Salleh (sent off 42), Nurullah Hussein (Jamil Ali 31), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Smajovic Sadin, Ahmad Syahir, Emir Lotinac, Fazli Ayob, Fadhil Noh, Miroslav Kristic (Syafiq Zainal 60)
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Naofumi Tanaka (Albirex Niigata)