Written by: Shawn Lim
Garena Young Lions will be looking to build on their impressive start to their season when they take on Albirex Niigata FC (S) in the Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Led by stand-in captain Firdaus Kasman, the Young Lions fought hard to achieve a 1-0 victory against Balestier Khalsa last week despite missing key players like Khairul Amri, Adam Swandi and Amirul Adli.
While Amri, Adam and and Amirul will be missing out again because of injuries and National Service commitments, new Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse believes that the team can continue to be a tough challenge for other clubs.
“I have an idea of how the players train and play, because I saw all their friendly games and their training sessions as well,” said the Frenchman, who officially took over the reigns of the team from interim coach and Head Coach, National Youth Teams Richard Tardy this week.
“I think they are good players who have good technical skills. But we have to work more tactically and on our athleticism because it is difficult to have a full squad at one time, as the guys either have school or National Service commitments.
“I was in the stands for the match against Balestier and I was very happy for the team because they gave a lot of fight, so it was a nice victory in the end.”
However, Hesse cautioned that the White Swans, who are the reigning RHB Singapore Cup and The New Paper League Cup champions, will be pose a different set of problems for his boys.
“I first watched Albirex when they played against us in a friendly match, and I watched them again in a training session. I was really impressed with them,” said the former FC Metz assistant coach.
“I then watched them play Brunei (DPMM) and I thought it was a very good game…very speedy game with very good players.
“They are a very good team, very technical…they attack and defend in numbers. They have a very strong midfield as well.
“Their players cover a huge amount of distance in every match, so we have to stay compact to prevent them from exploiting any space in our midfield and defence.”
Most of the players in Garena Young Lions squad made their debuts in the game against Balestier. Among them was custodian Zharfan Rohaizad, who was also the only goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in Week 1 of the S.League.
For the 19-year-old and many of his teammates, it was a dream debut that they won’t forget in a hurry.
“It felt really good to win because during the month or so of pre-season training, the team worked really hard to achieve what we all wanted which quite obviously is to win,” said the goalkeeper.
“We set ourselves a target and eventually showed everyone what we’re capable of.”
Zharfan echoed his coach’s sentiments about staying compact when the Young Lions face Albirex and also urged his teammates to listen to Hesse in order to achieve three points.
“We know that they’re good at keeping the ball and offensively good; we have to stick together and defend as a team,” explained Zharfan.
“I’m sure if everyone does their job and listen to the coaches, we will do just fine!”
Written by: Shawn Lim
Garena Young Lions opened their 2016 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League campaign with a hard-fought but well-deserved 1-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa FC on Sunday night at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Fareez Farhan fired the hosts into the lead in the 23rd minute after turning home Muhaimin Suhaimi’s low cross, as the Young Lions defended stoutly for the rest of the match, repealing everything the Tigers threw at them while creating chances to score as well.
Few had given the Young Lions a chance of even earning a point before the game, considering that they were missing several key players like Khairul Amri, Adam Swandi and Amirul Adli through injuries and National Service commitments.
Head Coach, National Youth Teams Richard Tardy, who has been serving as the caretaker coach for the Garena Young Lions, was pleased with how the team showed their determination and a never-say-die attitude in the face of challenges.
“It was very difficult for us because we lost to three S.League teams in the pre-season and we didn’t know what kind of progress we’re making,” said the 65-year-old.
“We were also missing many players for this game. Before the match, I told them this was like a Cup game – (where even) a fourth division team can beat a first division team… and they did what I wanted.
“I did not expect this result, but I’m very proud of this young team. We had many players coming up from the NFA (National Football Academy) and they showed what they’re capable of.”
However, Tardy was quick to temper expectations of the young team, stressing that they still have a long season ahead.
““This is a good start, but it’s only a good start. Let’s wait two to three months to see what we can do,” he explained.
“The purpose of this team is to give more exposure to these young players and it’s important that we keep continuing to do that.”
The Frenchman also praised Firdaus Kasman’s leadership of the team after he was given the captain’s armband in Amri’s absence.
Firdaus played a part in the build-up to the goal, picking out Muhaimin on the right flank and was first to every ball, as he marshalled the midfield expertly throughout the night.
“He did his job perfectly and as a leader, he pushed the team to do well. He has the quality to know when we must keep the ball,” explained Tardy.
“This is what we are lacking in the younger players because they want to play fast all the time.”
Like his coach, Firdaus was keen for the side to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. The stand-in captain also expressed his gratitude to the 2,246 fans who turned up for helping the team achieve their victory.
“”We are obviously very happy with the win tonight, but we won’t get carried away because it is only one match,” said Firdaus.
“The fans who turned up really made the difference, we heard them singing throughout the match and it really motivated us to keep going.”