White Swans storm to victory

White Swans storm to victory

Plenty of passing and possession, but not much of an end product.

This has been the main criticism of Albirex Niigata this season, and it has shown in the goals-for column, as the White Swans mustered just 29 goals in 22 previous league games, the same number as second-from-bottom Hougang United.

However, at their last home match at the Jurong East Stadium on Wednesday night, it all clicked, even if it was for just the first 45 minutes.

The passes were pacy, precise and penetrative, as Albirex stormed to a 3-0 first-half lead over Woodlands Wellington.

The hosts could easily have made it half a dozen, but for a combination of some profligate finishing and determined defending by Woodlands goalkeeper Yazid Yazin and skipper Shahril Alias.

Kazuki Sakamoto created the first goal with a brilliant first-time pass off captain Shuhei Hotta's knock-down in the 15th minute.

Bruno Castanheira stayed onside and easily slotted past Yazid for the opener.

Masatake Sato scored from a tight angle in the 36th minute after Castanheira was denied a second by Yazid.

The outstanding 19-year-old left winger Kazuya Fukuzaki, playing in place of the injured Shingo Suzuki, then placed the ball beyond Yazid five minutes later to all but seal the match.

Ang Zhiwei did pull one back for Woodlands eight minutes into the second half with a delightful floated finish from range.

But Hiroaki Hara's save from Atsushi Shimono's header in the 65th minute prevented the visitors from getting anywhere close to notching a treble over Albirex after 1-0 and 2-1 victories earlier this season.

The barnstorming victory gave Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama confidence that his side can "create history" by winning their two remaining matches to achieve their best league finish as runners-up.

Said Woodlands coach Salim Moin, whose side finished last in the league for the past three seasons: "We lapsed in concentration, and were over-confident because we beat them twice before.

"We did better in the second half and I'm happy with our performance over the course of the season.

"I was very bold to predict we would finish in the top three, considering the management gave me a target to finish in the top eight, and the players' response was awesome.

"To finish in the top six is already a success."

In the other match last night, Warriors FC beat Brunei DPMM 3-2 at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

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