2017 Singapore S-League
  • Albirex Niigata (26')

Albirex Niigata (S) beat DPMM, go 12 points clear in S.League

Even without the services of suspended top scorer Tsubasa Sano, Albirex Niigata (S) defeated Brunei DPMM 1-0 away at Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium on Saturday night to continue their relentless march towards the 2017 S.League title.

Left-back Naofumi Tanaka played a vital role in the narrow victory by preventing a certain goal, before scoring the winner to ensure the defending champions notched up their 12th successive win in all competitions.

The result meant they are now 12 points clear of nearest challengers Tampines Rovers, having played two games more. They are also 16 points clear of Home United, having played an extra four games.

Albirex started off the better of two sides, and should have opened the scoring on 13 minutes.

Kento Nagasaki's long-range strike came off the crossbar, before Shoichiro Sakamoto's follow-up was denied by DPMM custodian Awangku Mu'izzuddin.

DPMM threatened six minutes later, with Azwan Ali's attempted chip going over Albirex custodian Yosuke Nozawa before Tanaka got back in time to clear off the line.

Tanaka was involved again on 26 minutes as he pounced on a loose ball to give Albirex the lead after Mu'izzuddin fumbled Nagasaki's free kick.

The White Swans could have doubled their advantage before the break, but Sakamoto and Nagasaki's attempts were held by the busy Mu'izzuddin.

DPMM returned for the second half with much more vigour and went close on two occasions.

Brazilian frontman Rafael Ramazotti nodded just wide from Azwan Saleh's right-wing cross on 48 minutes, before Adi Said's bullet header from Azwan A's free kick was met by a superb reflex save by Nozawa three minutes later.

Albirex then enjoyed a glut of opportunities, but somehow failed to put them away.

In the 57th minute, Nagasaki poked wide from six yards out when it seemed easier to hit the target after a beautiful passing move.

Nine minutes later, Ryota Nakai fired over from just inside the area.

Then on 71 minutes, Sakamoto's header was cleared off the line by DPMM captain Rosmin Kamis.

DPMM boss Steve Kean reacted by throwing on attackers Shahrazen Said and Daud Gazale for the final 12 minutes, but they were unable to breach the stout Albirex defence.

Ramazotti could have netted the equaliser in the dying moments but his acrobatic bicycle kick flew over the bar.

Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side held on for the three points and condemn DPMM to their 13th loss in 16 league games.

The White Swans will have to recover fast though, with a crucial title decider against Home at Bishan Stadium coming up in three days' time.

Brunei DPMM: Awangku Mu'izzuddin (GK), Helmi Zambin, Rosmin Kamis (C), Yura Indera Putera (Reduan Petara 74'), Abdul Mu'iz Sisa, Hanif Hamir, Azwan Saleh, Azwan Ali (Daud Gazale 78'), Nurikhwan Othman, Rafael Ramazotti, Adi Said (Shahrazen Said 78')

Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Rui Kumada (Tomoki Menda 75'), Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Shoma Kondo 90'), Shoichiro Sakamoto (Koki Sato 90')