News Singapore Premier League • May 29, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Tampines hunt second win in row against Young Lions side determined to snap win-less run

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Adam Hakeem has impressed at centre-back for Young Lions.

SINGAPORE, 29 MAY 2018Tampines Rovers FC are looking to achieve back-to-back Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) wins for the first time this season, but it will not come easy against an Ikhsan Fandi-inspired Young Lions side at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night, 30 May. The match will kick off at 8.30pm.

BACKGROUND With Albirex Niigata FC (S) pulling 17 points clear at the top, it looks increasingly unlikely that they can be caught in their pursuit of a third straight league title.

However, it is anybody’s game in the race for second spot, which comes with the incentive of playing in AFC competitions in 2019 as foreign teams are not eligible to contest.

Just two points separate the current second-placed – Tampines Rovers with 13 – to sixth-placed – Home United FC with 11 – teams, while seventh-placed Geylang International FC have eight points.

With three games in hand, Tampines have the opportunity to whittle down the gap between them and the White Swans and they are looking to achieve successive wins for the first time this season as they take on the Young Lions.

Fandi Ahmad’s side have been a breath of fresh air this season with a number of credible performances along the way, resulting in their fourth position thanks to 12 points from eight matches.

Yasir Hanapi is not taking things for granted in this upcoming double-header and hopes his team’s experience will work in their favour.

“Young Lions are a team who will run and make us work for the full 90 minutes,” the 28-year-old midfielder said. “It’s important for us to get a run of wins together, if not we’ll be further away from Albirex. It’s best for us not to look at the table now as we can’t change it. We just have to keep winning and hope Albirex lose points along the way.”

The Young Lions’ rise has been largely down to the recent sparkling form of front man Ikhsan Fandi, who has struck three goals in as many matches after failing to net in any of his previous 19 SPL appearances.

The 19-year-old is relishing the opportunity to make it four in a row and help his team end a two-match win-less streak.

“I feel that my form is coming back after (completing) NS (National Service), but I will keep my head down and keep on working hard for more goals in the future,” said Ikhsan, who also scored three goals for the Singapore Under-21s in the recent Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy.

“I’ve trained with Daniel (Bennett) and Farra (Fahrudin Mustafic) in the (Singapore) National Team so I know how they play. Every game is a new challenge and I’m ready to take them down.”

History favors Tampines, who have won the last seven encounters. Their last defeat to the Young Lions was back in September 2015, where the game was decided by a M. Anunmanthan long-range stunner at the Stags’ old home at Jurong West.

TEAM NEWS For the Young Lions, wide men Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Naqiuddin Eunos are likely to miss out again as they continue their recovery from injuries.

As for Tampines, Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman are still out injured while young Irfan Najeeb remains doubtful. Hafiz Sujad is also not available due to registration issues. However they will welcome back Captain Mustafic and talismanic forward Khairul Amri from suspension.

FORM GUIDE
Young Lions: DLWDD
Tampines: DLWLW

PREVIOUS MEETINGS
28/10/17:
Tampines 3-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
12/09/17:
Young Lions 0-4 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
23/04/17:
Tampines 3-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
15/10/16:
Young Lions 1-3 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
14/06/16:
Tampines 6-1 Young Lions – Singapore Cup

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR
Adam Hakeem – Young Lions
After just one substitute appearance in the first five matches, Adam – eldest son of Assistant Coach Nazri Nasir – impressed in his first start of the season in a 2-1 win at Hougang United FC and has retained his spot in the lineup for the subsequent two matches. The 21-year-old has not just dominated the backline with his imposing 1.92m frame, but also showed the ability to produce raking cross-field passes to the attackers.

Ryutaro Megumi – Tampines
Injury issues meant Megumi started the season slowly, but the 24-year-old is now starting to get back into the groove with two goals in the last two matches. The Japanese winger’s pace and trickery will pose a big threat to the Young Lions, who have not kept a clean sheet since their second match of the season.

WHAT ELSE THEY SAID
Young Lions forward Ikhsan
: “I badly wanted to score my first SPL goal previously, so I was putting too much pressure on myself to score and that made me very frustrated. But I just tried to stay calm, work hard, just play football and I knew the goal will come. I’m taking it one game at a time now and I hope to score in every match – that should be every striker’s goal. Hopefully I’ll have a bunch of goals by the end of the season.”

Tampines midfielder Yasir: “It was important for us to beat Geylang because we cannot afford to lose points. We had a little problem with the pitch (at Bedok Stadium) for some parts of the game, but I’m glad we got the three points in the end. It’s nice to see local players like Ikhsan scoring goals for their clubs, but I believe my defenders will do whatever it takes to stop him in this game.”

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