The race is on

Kazuki Sakamoto

KAZUKI SAKAMOTO (Albirex Niigata)

Take one look at Kazuki Sakamoto (pic) and "top scorer" would not be the first thought that comes to mind.

Standing at 1.75m, he isn't the tallest forward around.

Weighing 74kg, he isn't exactly light on his feet either.

But what the 23-year-old Shiga native possesses is a killer instinct in the penalty box.

He's your classic goal poacher, the sort of player who always seems to be at the right place, at the right time.

His exploits in front of goal have drawn comparisons with Shotaro Ihata, the Albirex striker who bagged 22 goals in 33 games in 2011.

His coach, Koichi Sugiyama, believes he is a more complete forward than Ihata because of his superior link-up play.

So perhaps it's no surprise that a big reason for Sakamoto's success in front of goal is the result of his combination with former neighbour Bruno Castanheira.

The understanding between the two has propelled Albirex to second in the table and should ensure Sakamoto continues to score a few more goals until the end of the season.

The only problem he could face is that he might have a hard time trying to score against tougher defences in Albirex's last five games, as the S-League's new 2.5-round format will see the table split into two after 22 games.

HIT RATE: Nine in 18 games

MOON SOON HO (Woodlands Wellington)

Quick, direct and packing a powerful shot, it is no surprise Woodlands striker

Moon Soon Ho is among the top scorers in the S-League.

In fact, having played a game fewer than the three others at the top of the charts, the South Korean is the most prolific player this season.

Moon's (left) nine goals are a big reason that Woodlands, the S-League's wooden spoonists for the last three seasons, are sitting pretty in fourth place on the table.

Moon has been in a purple patch, scoring five in his last three games, and it has coincided with the Rams' rise into the top half of the table.

But his streak could well come to an end soon.

While he is a fantastic finisher, the 32-year-old has blown hot and cold during his time in the S-League.

He showed great promise by scoring eight goals in 17 games after joining Woodlands from South Korean second tier side Cheonan City as a mid-season signing in 2011.

The following season, however, he netted only nine in 24 games.

And while he is on a hot streak, he looked off-colour and, at times, even disinterested in Woodlands' first 13 games, scoring just four times.

It doesn't get any easier for him from now until the end of the season.

Three of Woodlands' next four league games will be against top-half teams - whom they will face again if they manage to keep hold of their spot in the top six after 22 games.

HIT RATE: Nine goals in 17 games

MONSEF ZERKA (Tanjong Pagar United)

The Jaguars' signing of former Morocco international Monsef Zerka as their marquee player hardly caused a ripple at the start of the year.

Unless you are a fan of French football or a hardcore Football Manager addict, chances are you would not have heard of the 31-year-old.

But Zerka (left) quickly established himself as one of the finest foreign imports the S-League has had in recent years.

He took the league by storm, surging up the scorers' charts with eight goals in his first nine games as a part of Tanjong Pagar's

"Three Musketeers" alongside two other French-born imports - Kamel Ramdani and Ismael Benahmed.

Zerka has scored just once in the league since then, but he has still been prolific in

Tanjong Pagar's cup matches, bagging five in six matches.

What makes the former Nancy and Nantes man's nine-goal haul remarkable is that, while he starts off matches as an orthodox out-and-out striker, he is anything but.

He plays almost like a "False No. 9", dropping into midfield to receive passes and regularly drifts wide to drag defenders out of position.

While he is not a natural striker, his quality has seen him score in the top-tier of French, Greek, Romanian and American football.

Considering his barren patch of late, he is due a few goals and could well end up the league's top scorer come the end of the season.

HIT RATE: Nine in 18 games

JOZEF KAPLAN (Geylang International)

GEYLANG coach V Kanan insisted that his star Jozef Kaplan was the best player after the first round of the S-League.

Not many would argue with him.

Eagles skipper Kaplan (right) has accounted for nine of his team's 20 league goals, despite playing as a midfielder in a number of those games.

There's no denying the 27-year-old Slovak knows where the goal is.

Kaplan struck an impressive 16 goals in 24 games in his debut season last year and always seems to time his runs from deep positions to perfection, a la Paul Scholes.

This year, he has not gone more than two league games without finding the net - making him the most consistent scorer in the S-League.

But because of his wholehearted style of play - he covers almost every blade of grass - it always looks like he is a box-tobox midfielder forced to play up front.

The super-fit Kaplan, who clocked 8min 3sec for his 2.4km run, will certainly score a few more goals before the season is up.

He has an advantage over the three other front-runners for the top-scorer award too, considering ninth-placed Geylang are on course to finish in the bottom half of the S-League at the end of the 22 games.

But, with Geylang's chief striker Stefan Milojevic slowly getting back to full fitness, the scoring burden will not fall only on Kaplan's shoulders.

Whether he can bag enough goals to finish top of the pile is another question.

HIT RATE: Nine in 18 games


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