Albirex seal Singapore Premier League title with three months left

A draw was enough for Albirex to wrap up the SPL title although the result dashed their hopes of achieving a perfect record

Japanese side Albirex Niigata won the first edition of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) on Sunday (Jul 22), with three months to go before the 2018 season ends.

For Albirex this will be their third title having won the previous two S.League (SPL's predecessor) titles. 

On the other hand, Balestier Khalsa became the first team to take points off the soaring White Swans this season, securing a 1-1 draw at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening, but it was not enough to prevent the Japanese side from securing the inaugural SPL title.

Indeed the draw put a spanner in the works of Albirex’s hopes of achieving a perfect record. They entered Sunday’s game having won all of their previous 17 matches. 

Albirex's closest challengers are Tampines Rovers who will have a maximum of 51 points should they win all their remaining six games, but the result saw Albirex hit 52 points, beyond the reach of the Stags.

Although SPL rules meant that the Japanese had to put together a new squad with half their players aged below 23 and the other half below 21, Albirex have continued their domination of Singapore football, securing two of the three trophies on offer this year

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In March, they won the Community Shield beating Tampines 2-1 at the National Stadium, kicking off a winning streak that was finally put to a halt on Sunday evening.

For their part, Balestier were not unnerved and forward Hazzuwan Halim's equaliser early in the second half, which cancelled Kenya Takahashi's first-half strike from a free-kick, helped the Tigers become the first team to take points off the champions. 
Moreover Balestier were resolute in defence causing Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side to struggle and create clear cut opportunities.

Both teams had chances to win the match, but were impeded by a mixture of wastefulness and wayward finishing.

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