News Singapore Premier League • July 10, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Young Lions seek redemption against fast-improving Home


Iqram Rifqi (right) celebrates after scoring a late equaliser against the Young Lions last month.

SINGAPORE, 10 JULY 2018Having let slip two points under controversial circumstances when the two sides last met, Young Lions will need little motivation when they face Home United FC again at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday, 11 July. The Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) match will kick off at 7.45pm.

BACKGROUND With Naqiuddin Eunos sprawled on the turf after going down with cramp, the Young Lions – who led 1-0 for large periods of the game – had expected Home to boot the ball out of play for their midfielder to receive medical attention.

But the Protectors played on and worked their way into the box before Iqram Rifqi slammed home a last-gasp equaliser to earn them a share of the spoils in an epic encounter at the Singapore National Stadium last month.

To rub salt into their wounds, Assistant Coach Nazri Nasir was sent to the stands for protesting while first-choice goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad got a post-match red card for screaming at referee Farhad Mohd.

One would reckon that the nightmarish ending to that game would still be playing in the Young Lions’ minds. However, midfielder Joshua Pereira believes it has no bearing as both sides face off again just two and a half weeks on.

“There isn’t any need for extra motivation because I feel that every game is important and we should already be motivated enough to get something out of any game,” the 20-year-old said.

“We all know how good Home United are and that it won’t be an easy game. But we did really well against them at the National Stadium and were unlucky to walk away with just a point. We’re expecting a tough game, but we will definitely give our all and try to get the three points.”

It will be tough for second-from-bottom Young Lions to replicate that heroic display though, with a number of key players not available due to various reasons.

Most notably, centre-back Irfan Fandi is away in Europe for trials while younger brother Ikhsan Fandi is still struggling to shake off his injury problems.

On the other hand, third-placed Home have solved the defensive deficiencies that plagued them earlier in the season with three straight clean sheets – beating Hougang United FC 1-0 and Warriors FC 2-0, before holding Tampines Rovers FC to a 0-0 draw.

The Protectors are overwhelming favourites to win this one, considering that they have not lost to the Young Lions in the last 10 head-to-head encounters (eight wins and two draws).

Their last loss came in April 2015 when a late Shamil Sharif goal sank them 1-0 at their old home at Yishun Stadium. Nonetheless, Coach Aidil Sharin refuses to take a victory for granted.

“It’s going to be very tough… In fact, every game is tough because every SPL team wants to beat Home United,” said the former national midfielder, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Monday.

“It’s normal. If I’m them (an opponent), I want to beat the AFC Cup (Zonal) Finalists because I want to show that I’m better than them. It’s like Germany at the World Cup… Everyone wants to beat them. What we want is to give a good fight, regardless of who we’re going to face.”

The treatment room is not clearing up for Home, with Sirina Camara and Juma’at Jantan are out with season-ending injuries while Fazli Ayob is still unfit for action. Centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim is suspended.

South Korean attacker Song Ui-young will miss a sixth straight match due to a hamstring problem, but Aidil expects him back “within two weeks”.

Apart from the Fandi brothers, Young Lions will also miss R. Aaravin and Zharfan through suspension.

However, Hami Syahin and Zulqarnaen Suzliman return from their respective bans to bolster Coach Fandi Ahmad’s options.

Home United: DLWWD
Young Lions: LLLDL

23/06/18: Young Lions 1-1 Home – Singapore Premier League
06/06/18: Home 4-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
31/10/17: Home 4-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
21/05/17: Young Lions 1-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
27/02/17: Home 6-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League

Iqram Rifqi – Home United
It remains to be seen what tactical plan Coach Fandi comes up with, but it is very likely to include measures to deal with Iqram. Before that late equalising goal in the 1-1 draw at National Stadium, the 22-year-old forward also came up with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 trouncing of Young Lions in early June.

Adam Hakeem – Young Lions
With Irfan unavailable once again, the onus is on 1.92m Adam to lead the defence and deny Home’s veteran forward Shahril Ishak from scoring. The 21-year-old is now a key figure of Fandi’s backline after playing a peripheral role early in the season.

Home coach Aidil:
“It’s so hard to catch Albirex [Niigata FC (S)], so we want to collect points and put pressure on (second-placed) Tampines (Rovers). It’s not easy with many matches at Jalan Besar this month, so we have to be careful with players’ condition – especially with so many ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries happening this year.

“Yes, it’s frustrating to miss Song and the boys miss him a lot. If he’s there, he can finish off chances easily. But we need to be careful with him. If you look at his record, he got a long list of injuries every year. We don’t want to rush him back for one game and he goes disappearing again.”

Young Lions midfielder Pereira: “We played really well (in last Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat to Geylang International FC), created lots of chances but just could not finish them. We definitely need to be more clinical in front of goal and make our chances count. If not we’ll be punished. Nonetheless, it was an honour to captain the team for the first time.

“It’s a tough two weeks ahead but I think the whole squad is ready… Whoever gets the nod to play will battle their hearts out on the pitch. We have to keep our heads up (despite not winning the last eight games) and continue to work towards getting back to winning ways. It’s not easy, but I believe we can get our form back and climb back up the table.”

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