Albirex set to retain S.League crown after stroll over Balestier
Only a miracle can stop White Swans from retaining league title, after yesterday's win over the Tigers
|BALESTIER KHALSA||ALBIREX NIIGATA|
|(Tsubasa Sano 13, Hiroyoshi Kamata 39, Ryota Nakai 89)|
Albirex Niigata sealed a 3-0 away win against Balestier Khalsa last night to virtually assure themselves of a second straight Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title.
The three points earned at the Toa Payoh Stadium took them to 56 points, with two games to go.
Second-placed Tampines Rovers can match their points tally if they win their final three games, but it will take a miracle for them to make up for a goal difference of 25 - Albirex stand at plus-45 and Tampines at plus-20.
Third-placed Home United, who have four games left and are on 43 points, are out of the picture.
Surprisingly, Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga was irritated by his team's performance.
He said "For tonight's game, they didn't play well.
"A lot of my players are first-year professional players and, if they want to stay pro for a long time, this performance is not acceptable."
Albirex still have league games against Warriors FC and Geylang International and the 48-year-old expects his players to not lose sight of their target of 60 points this season.
He added that his players also need to prove themselves worthy of a spot in his line-up for the RHB Singapore Cup final against Philippine side Global FC on Nov 25.
Kazuaki said: "Nothing is 100 per cent confirmed yet. We have two more games before the Singapore Cup final.
"If the players want a spot in the final team, they need to perform well to meet my expectations.
"We need to maintain the standard of football in the S.League, so it's important that the players put in maximum effort in every game."
Despite having not won at Toa Payoh in their previous four attempts, Yoshinaga's men made light work of the Tigers.
Star striker Tsubasa Sano gave the visitors a 13th-minute lead before Hiroyoshi Kamata doubled the advantage six minutes before half-time.
The Tigers played with more intensity in the second half, but Tajeli Salamat and Aung Kyaw Naing couldn't find a way past the Albirex goalkeeper.
Ryota Nakai added the icing on the cake a minute from time to complete a comfortable win.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic was quick to praise Albirex after the match, saying that the Japanese outfit have set the benchmark.
He said: "It was a tough game, but I like to play against better players.
"We're playing against the champions in Singapore, so everybody should learn from them.
"If we can play that kind of game, then Singapore can improve a lot in football."