Time to step up
Albirex Niigata's twin terrors Taki and Kawata raring to go in last lap of title race
ALBIREX NIIGATA v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
They account for more than half of Albirex Niigata's 19 goals in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League this season.
But the White Swans' twin terrors - forwards Rion Taki and Atsushi Kawata - believe they can get even better.
The second-placed Japanese outfit take on fellow title rivals Tampines Rovers tonight in what could be an epic clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
And, as the season enters its final third, Taki and Kawata, both 23-year-olds who played together at primary school and university levels in Japan, feel they can do more to help their team win a first S.League title.
"I'm doing good defensively, but I'm making too many mistakes in the attacking third," said Kawata, who has scored five league goals.
"I'm not satisfied with the number of goals I have scored and I need to improve more."
Versatile attacker Kawata, who has been deployed as a right winger in recent matches, but has also played up front and as a No. 10, chipped in with another four goals in cup competitions.
His roommate Taki, meanwhile, is Albirex's leading scorer in the league with six goals.
The left winger, who has two goals in cup competitions, also feels that he can do more as they near the finishing line.
"I'm not satisfied with my performance yet," said Taki.
"I have many things to do to improve."
Albirex coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama agrees with his players' self-assessments.
While the two have been ever-present in his team, the former J.League central midfielder said Taki and Kawata have the potential to grow into even better players.
"Taki is a dynamic player and his powerful play gives momentum to the team," said the 38-year-old of the 1.84m winger.
"Kawata is a reliable player and he has showed devotion working in both attack and defence. But I'm not satisfied with their performance yet.
"I make them think about many things when they play football and they are growing steadily throughout the season."
Both Taki and Kawata believe Albirex have earned the right to dream of an unprecedented treble.
The White Swans lifted The New Paper League Cup in July and are in the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup.
Said Kawata: "We are a very new team and there's still much room for improvement. But we are doing very well and I am confident.
"It's not easy, but wining all three titles is possible."
Rion Taki competed in karate at national schools level in Japan, while Atsushi Kawata was a high jumper with a personal best of 1.75m.
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