SINGAPORE - Japanese side Albirex Niigata could sew up their third consecutive Singapore Premier League (SPL) football title as early as next Wednesday, after a 2-1 win over closest rivals Tampines Rovers on Saturday (July 14) evening.
A brace by striker Shuhei Hoshino handed the White Swans all three points at the Jurong East Stadium, extending their perfect record this season to 16 wins from 16 games.
As it stands, Albirex (48 points) will seal the championship if they beat second-from-bottom Young Lions on Wednesday, and Tampines (29) lose to Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan on the same night.
SPL top scorer Hoshino opened the scoring against Tampines after just 53 seconds with a close-range finish after the Stags' defence failed to clear their lines on Albirex's first foray into their penalty area.
Tampines eventually recovered from the early setback and threatened to equalise through Zulfadhmi Suzliman. But the 22-year-old winger was twice denied by Albirex's veteran former J-League goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa with superb saves in the 31st and 40th minutes.
Hoshino then grabbed his second of the evening five minutes after the break after being left unmarked at the back post.
Tampines forward Jordan Webb got the fans off their seats in the 89th minute by waltzing past three Albirex defenders to set up Khairul Amri for a late goal, but the strike proved mere consolation for the Stags.