Eager Young Lions
Raab's men eyeing another three points, but wary of buoyant Protectors
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v HOME UNITED
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
The last time the Courts Young Lions prepared for a showdown with Home United, in April, they were still searching for their first win of the season after six games of the 2015 Great Eastern Yeo's S.League.
Against the odds, the Under-23 side managed a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory over the Protectors at the Yishun Stadium - a result which left the team in good spirits ahead of the SEA Games in June.
Much has changed since that encounter, and the Young Lions will go into tomorrow's return S.League clash against Home at the Jalan Besar Stadium with a spring in their step.
Under new coach Juergen Raab - the German took over from Aide Iskandar after the former Singapore captain resigned in June - the Young Lions have gone 3-2-3 in the win-draw-loss column, moving one place off the bottom of the table.
With forwards Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri back in the side for the second half of the season, the Young Lions suddenly look as if they can pose problems for any side in the S.League.
Young Lions players Amirul Adli and M Anumanthan, who have chalked up four and six caps with the national team, respectively, are senior figures in the squad.
They say recent results have helped lift the side.
"Everyone has been coming in for training with more passion. It helps that we are getting good results," said centre back Adli.
"Coach Juergen has worked on our mentality. He expects true professionalism from us, whether we are starting or not.
"His methods are working and we believe in him."
Adli witnessed the full extent of Raab's no-nonsense approach last Sunday when the Young Lions faced league-leaders Brunei DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Struggling to cope with the pace of the game, the 19-year-old was substituted after just 36 minutes.
The Young Lions ended up losing 2-0.
"It was a very bad match for me. Even now, I'm still confused why I played so poorly... It was the right decision to take me out," admitted the defender.
Under Raab's rotational policy, both Adli and midfielder Anu have no clue if they will start against the Protectors tomorrow.
"If you don't follow instructions on the field, you're immediately on the bench," said 21-year-old Anu.
"Coach Raab is quite fierce. If we are late for training, fines are imposed, even if it's just a few minutes.
"We are working hard, but we are also enjoying our football. It's nice when you win matches."
The Young Lions will need every bit of discipline to overcome an in-form Home.
Led by star man Ken Ilso, 28, the Protectors are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions.
Ilso, an attacking midfielder who missed the previous meeting between the two teams, has scored three goals in the last four matches and been instrumental in the revival of the Protectors.
The six-time Singapore Cup winners are sixth in the standings, 12 points from the top.
"I've never faced (Ilso), but I saw some of his goals and they were quite spectacular," Adli said.
"He will be a threat, so we must find a way to stop him."
''Everyone has been coming in for training with more passion. It helps that we are getting good results.''
— Courts Young Lions centre back Amirul Adli
BY THE NUMBERS
19 - Home United have defeated the Young Lions on 19 occasions in 31 matches dating back to 2005. In that span, the two teams have drawn just four games, with the Young Lions winning eight times.