All seemed lost for Albirex Niigata a week ago, when they were stunned by Hougang United as they crashed to a 3-2 defeat at the Jurong East Stadium.
But a win against Tampines Rovers on Wednesday evening at the Clementi Stadium reignited the White Swans' hopes of a first ever S.League title.
Although the Japanese outfit went behind to an early goal from Sead Hadzibulic, they remained composed and hauled themselves back into the game, before finally securing a narrow win.
After the match, head coach Koichi Sugiyama said that the win was a result of the players' belief in themselves and in the team.
“Today, all the players did their best on and off the pitch. This win is a result of all the players’ contributions to the team. Our players believed that they could score goals, and no one gave up during the game. That was why we could win the game,” he explained.
“The attacking is fine, but we need to be careful when defending against long balls and the second balls too,” Sugiyama added.
The 2011 S.League Coach of the Year also explained the meaning of the symbolic gesture by his players after they scored the winning goal, whereby all of them gathered near the touchline before raising defender Keita Kobayashi’s jersey into the air.
“The meaning is that even though the players might be out injured and not playing, all of them are with the team. All the players are respecting each other with that celebration.”
Kobayashi, who was injured during their previous game, will be returning to Japan on Thursday morning for treatment.
But Sugiyama is not thinking about overtaking the defending champions at the top of the table yet, as he knows that the situation is still firmly in the hands of Tampines Rovers.
“Even though we won tonight, Tampines is still in first place. We cannot get rid of Tampines' points in the league, so we just need to concentrate on our own game and football philosophy.
“We will do our best for the rest of the season. I believe that we are able to win the rest of our game and enjoy those matches.”
Albirex will meet Geylang United, Courts Young Lions and Gombak United in their final three matches in the league.