Albirex want the quadruple
Albirex make history with first S.League title, but they want the Cup to complete quadruple
ALBIREX NIIGATA 3
(Atsushi Kawata 4, Masaya Jitozono 8, Rui Kumada 32)
HOUGANG UNITED 0
They strode onto the pitch at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night knowing they were potentially 90 minutes away from sealing a historic first Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title.
But even the most optimistic Albirex Niigata player would not have guessed they would practically have the trophy in the bag after just eight minutes.
For that was all it took for them to plunder two goals against a Hougang United side who were chasing an AFC Cup spot.
Albirex added a third in the 32nd minute, and while they had to endure a 50-minute delay in play in the second half because of the threat of lightning, they eventually posted a 3-0 win.
Their triumph was the first in the club's 13-year participation in the S.League, but they will not be presented with the trophy until the last game of the season, against Tampines Rovers at Jalan Besar again, on Oct 26.
Albirex, though, are already looking beyond that date.
Three days after they get their hands on the S.League crown, they have an RHB Singapore Cup final - also against Tampines - to negotiate.
Should they beat the Stags then, they will create history by being the first team in Singapore professional football history to complete a quadruple, having also lifted the Community Shield and The New Paper League Cup.
White Swans coach Naoki Naruo believes his charges will make it four out of four.
"We have shown what we have done this season is (the right way)," he said.
"And we will prepare for the final in the same way and do our best to win the Cup.
"We have one more step left."
The 42-year-old coach admitted he did not expect such a barnstorming start from his side last night.
Club topscorer Atsushi Kawata needed just four minutes to find the target, lobbing over Hougang goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid to notch his 13th goal of the season.
Just four minutes later, Masaya Jitozono made it two from a free-kick, after Kawata was brought down just outside the box.
Albirex cut through Hougang's makeshift centre-back pairing of midfielders Nurhilmi Jasni and Afiq Mat Noor with ease, and the game was done and dusted by the 32nd minute.
Man of the match Kawata showed superb tenacity and strength to hold of the challenge of three Hougang defenders, before setting up strike partner Rui Kumada to stroke home from close range.
Seven minutes into the second half, referee Mohd Farhad halted the game temporarily after the stadium's lightning warning system was activated, and the two teams had to wait almost an hour before play resumed.
The break did not affect Albirex's control on the game, as they comfortably held on for the win.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran rued the early goals his side conceded.
"It felt as though all they had to do was clear the ball and it fell to their player to score," he said.
"The two goals killed us. Our players became down and disorganised."
Bala backed Albirex to complete an unprecedented quadruple.
"Their team work hard and play as one," he said, of Albirex.
"I don't see any individual talent in their team.
"They're very physically strong and aggressive... So why not."
"We have shown what we have done this season is (the right way). And we will prepare for the final in the same way and do our best to win the Cup."
- Albirex Niigata coach Naoki Naruo
By The Numbers
3 Albirex Niigata are the third foreign club to win the S.League title in the competition's 21-year history, after the now-defunct Etoile FC did it in 2010 and Brunei DPMM last year.