A valiant Garena Young Lions (GYL) performance was not enough to earn a point against second-placed Home United FC in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League, as the developmental side was edged 2-1 in interim coach Richard Tardy’s first match in charge.
League top-scorer Stipe Plazibat gave the Protectors the lead in the 13th minute and Khairul Nizam added a second in the 49th minute, before Muhelmy Suhaimi gave the Young Lions a lifeline two minutes shy of the hour mark.
Home eventually sealed all three points, despite an outstanding display from several key individuals in the Young Lions side.
The opening period was a war of attrition for defenders on both sides, with Home coming close to opening the scoring in the seventh minute when Faris Ramli was brought down in the penalty area. He picked himself up to take it himself, but Young Lions goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan guessed correctly to claw away the Singapore international’s spot kick with confidence.
However, Plazibat popped up with the opening goal six minutes later. The Croatian finished neatly after being released by Nizam, who had beaten a few players on the right wing.
Undeterred, the resilient Young Lions kept their cool and continued to chase down loose balls and press with energy and pace, but were unable to get the final touches for an equaliser.
Dhukhilan Jeevamani sent a free kick low, before Hami Syahin then broke through Home’s defence with a slick bit of pass-and-move skill, only for his shot to be denied by Rudy Khairullah at his near post.
Muhaimin’s precise deep cross from the corner was headed on target by Amirul Adli in the 20th minute, but Rudy was once again well-positioned and keep the ball out of the net.
Both teams were unable to find another breakthrough for the rest of the first half, but Nizam tapped the ball in four minutes after the restart to double the Protectors’ lead when Faris found him in the six-yard box.
The hosts replied with a goal 10 minutes later when Muhelmy rifled a venomous strike from long range into the net to halve the deficit, sparking hopes of a comeback.
In response, the Protectors brought on Juma’at Jantan and then Song Uiyoung to steady the ship, as they held out for the remainder of the game to gain all three points.
Coach Richard Tardy acknowledged his young charges’ good performance, but was disappointed that they could not finish the chances they created.
“We gave too many opportunities to our opponents and because of our poor positioning, we conceded the first goal.
“But we didn’t [give up], we continued to play and scored our goal, we showed good character as a team which played really well. Our style of play is good for the near future as we prepare for the SEA Games.”
Garena Young Lions: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Amirul Adli (C), Dhukhilan Jeevamani (Syahrul Sazali 82’), Faizal Roslan, Rusyaidi Salime, Illyas Lee (Joshua Bernard Pereira 68’), Hami Syahin, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Haiqal Pashia, Muhelmy Suhaimi, Taufik Suparno (Ikhsan Fandi 74’)