Albirex Niigata (S) are shaping up as genuine title contenders in the S.League after moving four points off the top of the table with a 7-1 win over nine-man Woodlands Wellington.
In a blistering five-minute burst, the White Swans took the lead in the 12th minute when Kosuke Matsuda headed a Keisuke Ota cross in off the post, before Kazuki Sakamoto doubled their tally three minutes later.
And in the 17th minute, the hosts found themselves 3-0 up after returning centre-back Norihiro Kawakami netted with a header to put them firmly in control of the tie.
A minute after the half-hour mark, Albirex added a fourth when Kento Nagasaki met Kazuya Okazaki’s freekick and helped the ball into the six-yard box; Sakamoto capitalising on a moment of hesitation by Walid Lounis to nip in and poke the ball past Yazid Yasin.
Lounis’ evening got worse on the stroke of halftime when he was sent off for a second bookable offence, and too add insult to injury, the White Swans added a fourth goal from the resultant freekick as Itsuki Yamada unleashed a blistering drive that was too powerful for Yazid to keep out.
Woodlands did salvage some pride six minutes into the second half when Chang Jo-yoon pulled one back from the spot after Ota had been penalised for handball, but Albirex were awarded a penalty of their own in the 73rd minute after Yazid had clattered into Kawakami inside the box; Sakamoto dispatching from 12 yards to complete his hat-trick.
The Rams then found themselves down to nine men when substitute Armanizam Dolah also picked up a second yellow, and their miserable evening was completed three minutes from time when Kazuya Fukuzaki exchanged a neat one-two with Nagasaki on the edge of the box before firing away a shot that skipped off the surface and past Yazid’s despairing dive for his side’s seventh.
With the win, Albirex are now just four points behind leaders DPMM FC having played a game more, while Woodlands remain in ninth but could be overtaken by Tanjong Pagar United by the end of the round.
Albirex Niigata (S): Kazuki Kishigami, Soichiro Tanaka, Shuhei Hotta, Norihiro Kawakami (Taiyo Nishida 76’), Itsuki Yamada, Koki Akasaka (Kazuki Fukuzaki 66’), Kosuke Matsuda, Keisuke Ota (Ikuma Osaka 89’), Kazuya Okazaki, Kento Nagasaki, Kazuki Sakamoto.
Woodlands Wellington: Yazid Yasin, Goh Swee Swee, Walid Lounis, Milos Jevtic, Rosman Sulaiman, Atsushi Shimono, Taufiq Ghani (Farouq Farkhan 63’), Fadhil Noh, Shafuan Sutohmoh (Andy Ahmad 59’), Chang Jo-yoon (Armanizam Dolah 67’), Moon Soon-ho.