White Swans On The Verge Of Title Defence
Balestier Khalsa vs Albirex Niigata (S)
(26 October, Thursday, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
Written by: Rashid Sulaiman
Leaders Albirex Niigata (S) will be keen to put on a good showing for their faithful when they travel to Toa Payoh Stadium in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League match against Balestier Khalsa on Thursday.
The defending champions are currently at the top of the standings on 53 points, six points ahead of Tampines Rovers with three matches to go.
A win against Balestier would see Albirex in pole position to defend their title as they have a vastly superior goal difference of 42 as compared to Tampines’ goal difference of 20.
With two matches to play for after this match, the White Swans can officially start the title celebration if they collect a point against Warriors FC on 3 November at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Seeing how his team have performed through this campaign, head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga feels that it is timely for the players and the club to show their appreciation for the support they have received from the fans.
“I want the players to repay the faith the fans have put in us the whole season,” said Yoshinaga.
“Our good home form and unbeaten in all competitions at our homeground is the hard work of all the coaches and everyone related to the club over the last 14 years to build up the Albirex spirit.
“When the players come for matches, they feel the whole force of the Albirex spirit behind them and go for the win,” explained the White Swans’ tactician.
With only two losses and two draws all season and scoring a staggering 55 goals in the S.League, Yoshinaga believes that their success boils down to the player’s character on the pitch.
“They have come a long way and improved a lot. It is because of their performances that they are in this good position to win the title. They just have to work hard for our remaining matches and good form to finish the job. We do not care about other teams results,” added the 49-year old.
“To be a champion, they must have the will and determination to win difficult matches no matter how bad the situation are in the match. That is important for everyone who wants to be champions.”
Both Albirex and Balestier have met twice in the league earlier in the season and it is no surprise that the former won both matches, 3-0 and 2-1.
Although the Tigers have not had the best of campaigns, they are not lacking in commitment and the desire to clock up points in the closing stages of the S.League.
This was evident from their recent run of back-to-back wins against Garena Young Lions (1-0) and Brunei DPMM (4-1). But they were brought back down to earth in their previous match as they were handed a 2-0 reverse by Home United.
“We were playing against Home, a team fighting for the title and it is always going to be tough. I was proud of my boys and I was happy with the performance, but not the result,” said Kraljevic.
“The first half was poor but the second half was much better.The game could have been different had we put away our chances.
“We could also have done better defensively but that’s football, we move on and learn from this. We have room for improvement and we try to be better in the next game,” added the former Balestier player.
Balestier Khalsa - LLWWL
20/10/17 Home United 2-0 Balestier Khalsa
16/10/17 Brunei DPMM 1-4 Balestier Khalsa
20/09/17 Garena Young Lions 0-1 Balestier Khalsa
17/09/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Tampines Rovers
09/09/17 Geylang International 2-0 Balestier Khalsa
Albirex Niigata (S) - WDWWW
19/10/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Hougang United
30/09/17 Home United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (RHB Singapore Cup)
27/09/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 3-1 Home United (RHB Singapore Cup)
19/09/17 Home United 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
16/09/17 Brunei DPMM 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
Head to Head (S.League)
26/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Balestier Khalsa
21/04/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
19/08/16 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
06/05/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 6-0 Balestier Khalsa
27/02/16 Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)