News • February 13, 2016

Young Lions Out To Tame Weakened Tigers


Written by: Alex Weaver

Garena Young Lions vs Balestier Khalsa

(Sunday, 14 February, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)

With a new and exciting $4 million sponsorship deal under their belt, the new-look Garena Young Lions, formerly known as the Courts Young Lions, will be hoping that the positivity currently being generated off the field will continue on the field when they begin their 2016 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League campaign against Balestier Khalsa on Sunday night.

Similarly, coach Marko Kraljevic will be hoping for a positive start for his Tigers, especially as it is the first chance his side have to prove to some doubters that they still have enough in the squad to repeat their recent heroic feats in the S.League last year.

The Toa Payoh-based club have only added one former LionsXII player in Syafiq Zainal, who spent last season on the fringes of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) team.

Without any notable additions to the squad, it is going to be interesting to see how much of a loss losing players like Igor Cerina, Ignatius Ang and Poh Yifeng will be for Kraljevic.

Kraljevic, who was 2014 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League Coach of the Year, will be hoping that last season’s successful strike-force of Robert Pericic and Miroslav Kristic will be able to dominate a Young Lions team that may include some members of the national Under-18 team.

Hopefuls such as Gareth Low, Joshua Bernard and brothers Muhelmy and Muhaimin Suhaimi will be looking to impress ahead of the 2017 edition of the SEA Games.

These inexperienced players will be supported however, by the quality and international experience of both Khairul Amri and Firdaus Kasman, together with young players who have S.League experience such as Adam Swandi, Marcus Wheeler and Zakir Samsudin.

However, Amri will sit this game out because of injuries and will leave the leadership of the team in the capable hands of Firdaus.

With the Young Lions struggling to keep themselves off the bottom of the table in recent seasons and all the other clubs in the league strengthening their squads considerably more so than Balestier in the off-season, this match could potentially be a vital bottom-of-the-league ‘6-pointer’ between both clubs even though it is only the first week of the season.

Key Men To Watch

Garena Young Lions: Firdaus Kasman

As the next older member after Amri in such a young team, the 28-year-old has a considerable burden on his shoulders as he is expected to be a force in the engine room to keep his team off the bottom of the league.

With Adam Swandi and Shameer Aziq providing lightening quick support and service in wide areas, the former LionsXII midfielder will use his experience in the Malaysian Super League to control the middle of the park.

Balestier Khalsa: Miroslav Kristic

The Croatian striker was invaluable to the Tigers last year as he fired Kraljevic’s men to a very impressive fourth-placed finish in the league.

With diminished support following departures of Poh Yifeng and Tarik Cmajcanin, like his opposite counterpart Amri, Kristic will have his work cut out this term.

Kristic scored 16 goals in the league last year, so will be looking to strike early against what may be considered a vulnerable defence in order to make a positive start to the year.

Garena Young Lions – LDWDL

15/11/15  Home United 2-1 Courts Young Lions (S.League)

06/11/15  Courts Young Lions 2-2 Geylang International (S.League)

02/11/15  Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Courts Young Lions (S.League)

27/10/15  Courts Young Lions 1-1 Harimau Muda (S.League)

19/10/15  Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Courts Young Lions (S.League)

Balestier Khalsa – WLDWL

21/11/15  Brunei DPMM 4-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

05/11/15  Balestier Khalsa 4-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

01/11/15  Hougang United 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

26/10/15  Home United 2-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

19/10/15  Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Courts Young Lions (S.League)

Head to Head (S.League)

19/10/15  Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Courts Young Lions

31/07/15  Courts Young Lions 2-2 Balestier Khalsa

04/04/15  Balestier Khalsa 5-1 Courts Young Lions

15/05/14  Balestier Khalsa 3-1 Courts Young Lions

23/02/14  Courts Young Lions 0-4 Balestier Khalsa

Photo courtesy of The New Paper