Albirex Niigata (S) net eight in S.League rout of Garena Young Lions
Tsubasa Sano scored five times as Albirex Niigata (S) reclaimed their five-point lead at the top of the S.League on Friday evening after an 8-0 win over bottom side Garena Young Lions at Jurong East Stadium.
On Thursday night, it had been the White Swans' closest challengers, Home United, who issued a statement of intent as they cruised to a 9-3 triumph over Brunei DPMM FC. Singapore international winger Faris Ramli scored four of the goals.
However, Albirex issued an equally emphatic response just 24 hours later as they showed just why they are widely regarded as favourites to win the title again this season.
There was only six minutes on the clock when Sano latched onto a Shuto Inaba pass and finished into the bottom corner. Kento Nagasaki doubled their lead three minutes later with a delicate 20-yard free kick.
Ryota Nakai then capitalised on some sloppy play by the Young Lions to add a third in the 17th minute.
Sano struck again six minutes after the half-hour mark when he applied the finishing touches to a left-wing delivery with a simple tap-in.
By now, the contest was effectively over. But the hosts were in no mood to take their foot off the pedal and Nagasaki grabbed a brace of his own in the 73rd minute.
Nonetheless, the night belonged to Sano as he completed his hat trick by converting a Naofumi Tanaka cross four minutes later. He added two more goals in the closing stages to cap off a brilliant outing for him and his side.
In Friday's other game at Jalan Besar Stadium, Geylang International leapfrogged Hougang United into fifth spot with a 1-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa.
The only goal of the game came five minutes before the break when Ricardo Sendra latched onto a long ball before curling a neat strike past Zaiful Nizam to hand the Eagles maximum points.
Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.