Singapore Premier League: Albirex clinch 5th title with 4-2 win over Sailors

Jubilant faces as Kodai Tanaka (left) and Ilhan Fandi gave Albirex Niigata (Singapore) a 4-2 win over Lion City Sailors and sealed their fifth SPL title.
A hat-trick from Kodai Tanaka (left) and a superb opening goal from Ilhan Fandi gave Albirex Niigata (Singapore) a 4-2 win over Lion City Sailors and sealed their fifth SPL title. (PHOTO: SPL)

SINGAPORE — Albirex Niigata (Singapore) clinched their fifth Singapore Premier League (SPL) title in seven seasons, after defeating defending champions Lion City Sailors 4-2 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday (7 October).

A hat-trick from their top scorer Kodai Tanaka and a stunning volley from their brilliant mid-season acquisition Ilhan Fandi sealed the convincing victory for the White Swans, who last won the league in 2020.

The win gives them 58 points from 26 matches, and with two matches left in the season, they hold an unassailable seven-point lead over the slumping Sailors.

The title is a deserved reward for Albirex's remarkable consistency throughout the SPL campaign, as they lost just twice since the league started in February.

In contrast, the Sailors have blown hot and cold in their league defence, with their long winning runs deflated by their current four-match losing streak to cede the title to their closest rivals.

How the match went

Albirex got off to a perfect start against the Sailors, with Ilhan grabbing a magnificent opener in the fifth minute.

A long ball from defence was only half-cleared by Sailors defender Bill Mamadou, and Ilhan did not wait for the ball to bounce as he unleashed a searing volley from just outside the penalty box that gave goalkeeper Hassan Sunny no chance.

Stung by the early goal, the Sailors responded by equalising in the 16th minute. Adam Swandi's pin-point cross from the right flank found Korean striker Kim Shin-wook, who had time to chest the ball before slamming past Takahiro Koga.

Albirex retook the lead in the 37th minute, after a wild corner routine saw the ball being pin-balled around the Sailors penalty area, hitting the crossbar before Ilhan managed to side-foot a pass to Tanaka to head home from point-blank range.

Tanaka seemed have sealed the match and the title when he added Albirex's third in the 78th minute. Once again, the Sailors defence failed to deal decisively with a long ball, and Tanaka stole behind Amirul Adli to go one-on-one with Hassan, and just managed to guide the ball to cross the goal-line.

Gabriel Quak gave hope of a Sailors comeback when he converted and 84th-minute penalty, but Tanaka finally settled the match in stoppage time. Again it was a long punt from Koga, and Tanaka simply ran past the static Sailors defence to seal his hat-trick.

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