The striker came off the bench and struck the winner against Tanjong Pagar United as the Japanese side came back from a goal down to triumph 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium
Latching on to a flick-on 25 yards out from goal, Albirex Niigata's top scorer instinctively smashed a dipping half-volley into the bottom corner to seal a 2-1 victory for his side.
That 83rd-minute goal was Sakamoto’s fourth of the season and it capped a come-from-behind triumph, after Shuhei Hotta’s header had cancelled out Soichiro Tanaka’s own goal at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
“You can see [for yourself],” a pleased Tatsuyuki Okuyama responded at the post-match press conference when asked about the 24-year-old striker’s importance to the White Swans.
He added that he was forced to bring on Sakamoto earlier than expected, with the player left out from the start as a precaution after suffering a minor injury in their last match against Woodlands Wellington.
Centre-back Hotta restored parity three minutes after that substitution, with Tanaka having diverted Masrezwan Masturi’s cross past his own goalkeeper on 59 minutes to spark a previously dreary game into life.
It seemed appropriate that it took an unfortunate mistake to break the deadlock, with both sides hardly offering up any goalmouth action of note before that.
The tempo instantly changed after that though as the Jaguars surged forward in a bid to extend their lead, only to be caught out by the Japanese side on their fast breaks.
Okazaki saw a fierce drive tipped on to the post after the equaliser and Hotta headed over from the subsequent corner, before makeshift forward Taiyo Nishida set up Sakamoto, as Tanjong Pagar failed to muster a response.
Coach Patrick Vallee was “happy” with his team’s display but admitted he was disappointed at their fourth loss in six games.
“Sometimes football is like that; you try to win, you lead the game but in the end you lose,” he said. “If everybody dominates us and we cannot catch the ball, maybe we can be worried, but it’s not the case. But we must be more efficient [in front of goal], sure.”
Albirex put such goal-scoring worries behind them, at least for one game, and Okuyama was convinced his side were deserved winners.
“In the previous five matches, we couldn’t score enough goals but today, we could score two and win,” he smiled.