SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Home United 1
Albirex Niigata 6
As far as emphatic statements go, Albirex Niigata certainly sent out an ominous warning to the rest of the Singapore Premier League last night.
Facing Home United at Bishan Stadium, the two-time defending champions crushed their fellow title challengers 6-1 for this season's biggest scoreline so far. They made it a perfect four out of four to extend their lead at the top to six points ahead of Tampines Rovers, who have played one game fewer.
Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga felt that the thrashing was the perfect response to the doubters.
The Japanese said: "Before the season, I heard that some coaches said we are a new team and we are not so strong this year. We needed to show our pride today and we showed that on the pitch today."
Dejected Home coach Aidil Sharin labelled the performance "unacceptable".
"We were poor, as simple as that," he said tersely, before challenging his troops to rebound from this debacle.
"To lose in this kind of manner, it's frustrating. But this is not the end, we have to be strong and bounce back as soon as possible.
"We cannot moan and keep looking back, it's very crucial that my boys rise to the challenge."
The rout started in the eighth minute when burly striker Shuhei Hoshino volleyed in off the post from outside the box. He added another one in the 20th minute by drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
Forward Taku Morinaga, standing at just 1.53m, reacted quickest to a 53rd-minute corner by stabbing home. Captain Wataru Murofushi then capped a frenetic break in the 69th minute by blasting past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah, before unmarked defensive midfielder Daiki Asaoka added the fifth in the 72nd minute.
Even though Home scored a consolation penalty in the 90th minute through Shahril Ishak, Albirex's Singaporean midfielder Adam Swandi applied the coup de grace with the last kick of the game with a piledriver from the edge of the box.
While Adam thrilled the crowd of 1,000 with his repertoire of tricks and slick dribbles, Yoshinaga wants even more from the 22-year-old.
"I am not satisfied with Adam's performance and I believe he is not satisfied. He is getting better and better, but I believe he can do more," said Yoshinaga.
"That goal was good, but he needs to improve the overall quality of his shooting and final ball. He had developed toughness since joining us, but that is the basic level for us, he needs to add to that."
Tampines Rovers 4
Hougang United 0