SINGAPORE - Birthday boy Kyoga Nakamura was the toast of Albirex Niigata, as the White Swans thrashed Home United 4-0 in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at the Jurong East Stadium on Saturday (April 27).
Home had no answer for the former Japan Under-17 midfielder, who turned 23 on Friday (April 25) and scored a brace on Saturday, with all four goals coming in the first half.
White Swans coach Keiji Shigetomi praised his No.10, saying: "He can score, dictate the game, and help in our build-up play.
"As captain, his presence in the team is very important, especially in attack."
Nakamura models his game after Manchester City playmaker David Silva and former Barcelona schemer Andres Iniesta, and plays in a similar role to the two, drifting between midfield and attack.
And just as the two Spanish maestros often do, Nakamura provided the cutting edge in the final third for his side, which ultimately decided the outcome of a match that was otherwise fairly even.
With just over a minute into the match, Nakamura's tricky feet fooled Home defender Faizal Roslan into tripping him inside the penalty area. He dusted himself off to fire past goalkeeper Nazri Sabri and put his side in front.
Daizo Horikoshi then stole in at the near post to put Albirex 2-0 up in the 21st minute, before he turned providerin the 39th minute, when his shot was parried into the path of Daniel Martens, giving the 20-year-old Singaporean an easy tap-in for his first SPL goal for the Japanese side.
With six minutes added to the first half - during which referee Edwin Lee fell and injured his arm - Nakamura then grabbed his second and Albirex's fourth, winning the ball in midfield and jinking past Faizal before firing a shot from distance that went in off the post.
"After we got the penalty and goal in the first minute, Home had to attack and left gaps behind for us to exploit," said Shigetomi.
Home saw most of the ball in the second half but could not conjure a clear scoring opportunity. The closest they came to pulling a goal back was through substitute Hafiz Nor's shot from distance, which Albirex goalkeeper Kengo Fukudome tipped wide despite being out of position.
Home interim coach Noh Rahman said Nakamura was one of Albirex's players he had singled out before the game as a danger man, but also described the goals his side conceded as "giveaways".
The Protectors have no time to sulk over the defeat, though. They leave for Indonesia on Sunday morning for an AFC Cup game against PSM Makassar on Tuesday, before returning to Singapore and then flying off again to Brunei to take on league leaders Brunei DPMM next Saturday.
"We need to review today's game and look at the areas we can improve, but as you know we don't have much time," said Noh, who added it was frustrating to watch his side dominate possession but not score.
"We're travelling tomorrow for a different competition which is equally important, and it is a question of character now for the players.
"Today is obviously not a good result for our boys but we are looking for them to bounce back from this."