Japanese side Albirex Niigata won the first-ever edition of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) with six games to spare.
The team, a satellite of Japan’s Albirex, achieved a perfect record of 17 wins in 17 matches, before Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Balestier Khalsa. Tampine Rovers - their closest rivals - are 19 points behind.
This is Albirex’s third title in a row, having previously won S. League (SPL’s predecessor) titles in 2016 and 2017.
The Japanese side has also scored the most number of goals, netting the ball 54 times throughout the season and conceding only 11, the fewest among the SPL’s nine teams.
Albirex will collect the trophy at their last home game of the season, when they recieve Hougang United on 23 September.
CHAMPIONS: Congratulations to @ALB_S_FC for winning their third straight league title! 🏆🎉 The White Swans clinched the 2018 Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League title tonight after drawing with @FCBalestier 1-1. 👏 #SPL pic.twitter.com/kTKvZww6fC— Singapore Premier League (@SGPremierLeague) 22 July 2018
Good but not perfect
Despite clinching the SPL title, Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga addressed reporters about the team’s inability to continue with their winning streak.
"We set out to win every game and today we did not win, so we did not achieve what we wanted to do. We only needed a draw to be champions, but we couldn't get the win so there is some regrets," said Yoshinaga.
"We are happy to clinch the title, this is our club's 15th anniversary and all these years have been spent building up our foundation for what we are achieving right now. There was a lot of hard work put in these 15 years so we hope we can push on further after clinching this title."
📹 It took something special to deny @ALB_S_FC victory for the FIRST time this season and that was exactly what @FCBalestier attacker Hazzuwan Halim came up with 😮👏 #SPL #BALvALB— Singapore Premier League (@SGPremierLeague) 23 July 2018
Read the report ➡️ https://t.co/A9vEu38SrT pic.twitter.com/UnznTlRK5H
The Japanese side broke at least two records this season, as no Singaporean team had started with 16 wins until they did this year (eventually reaching 17 consecutive victories). The team also holds 29 unbeaten league games stretching back to last year.
Albirex still has the possibility of reaching the biggest gap in points between winners and runners-up. The current record is 20, set in 2002 by the Singapore Armed Forces FC.
The feat is remarkable, especially if we consider age restrictions imposed by the Football Association (FAS) of Singapore before the kick-off of the SPL.
According to FAS rulings, Albirex’s squad for the SPL had to be made up of 50% U23 players, 50% U21 players and one of any age. This rule excludes two Singaporean U-23 players which the team chose to sign.
Back in March, the Japanese side won the Community Shield, beating Tampines 2-1 at the Singapore’s National Stadium.
The RHB Singapore Cup is the only other trophy at stake.