Following a defeat to Home United in their opening 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League match on Monday, Garena Young Lions coach V. Selvaraj is hoping for an improved performance against defending champions Albirex Niigata FC (S) at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.
The developmental side put up a spirited showing, with S.League debutant Zulqarnaen Suzliman scoring with a spectacular overhead kick, but the Protectors – who were inspired by their National Team players and foreign signings – proved too strong.
The result against Home may have been a bitter pill to swallow, but Selvaraj believes it is still early days and is optimistic things will soon fall into place for his young charges.
“I think the boys I have are eager to learn. They are always looking forward to the next training session or match,” said the 48-year-old.
“We will see more experienced teams probe the weaknesses, but we will work on them game by game to get stronger and better. These boys are still young – the average age of the squad this year is much lower than last year.
“They have this desire to learn and they will see a lot of improvement, but I don’t think it’s going to end up like it was in the last two or three years,” added Selvaraj.
There were also positives the Young Lions could take away from that encounter.
Midfielder Yeo Hai Ngee made his first start in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League and did a decent job down the left flank, while Zulqarnaen came off the bench at half-time to net the Young Lions’ only goal of the game with an acrobatic effort.
With an average age of 19.94 this year, Selvaraj has admitted that the Young Lions will be given a baptism of fire but is convinced it can only get better.
“To us every game is going to be a battle,” he said.
“The other teams (in the league) will have quality players so we can only look at it one game at a time, set objectives and practice during training sessions and try to carry them out in games.
“We should not be affected too much by the result. As we work on weaknesses, (we will) continue to work harder. I think results will soon go our way, and we can achieve what we want in every match.”