Harimau Muda stun champions Warriors
Weaver's side struggle without star Velez; defensive blunders gift young visitors' win
WARRIORS FC 0
HARIMAU MUDA 2
(Syahrul Azwari 36, S Kumaahran 47)
Life after Nicolas Velez could be difficult for Warriors FC.
The reigning champions of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League were stunned 2-0 at home by Malaysia's development side, Harimau Muda, at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium last night, in what could be a potentially fatal blow to their hopes of retaining their crown.
The talented Argentinian hitman, who starred in their title triumph last season with 20 goals, played his final game for the club in Wednesday's RHB Singapore Cup defeat by Brunei DPMM before completing his move to Indian Super League outfit NorthEast United.
Many questions have been raised over how the Warriors' attack will function after the departure of Velez and, after last night's shock loss, doubts will also be raised over the team's defensive capabilities.
An error by captain Daniel Bennett gifted the visitors their opening goal through Syahrul Azwari in the 36th minute.
More slack defending followed soon after the restart, allowing S Kumaahran to double the Malaysian side's lead on 47 minutes.
A visibly disappointed Alex Weaver admitted his Warriors shot themselves in the foot.
"The way we conceded the first goal was a bit sloppy," the English coach said.
"We have enough experience to know that, going up against a young side full of running, we should have given them a few more yards.
"Then we were exposed early on in the second half while trying to create and we were hit on the counter.
"Obviously, the dynamic of the team has changed with Nico (Velez) now gone… We know what he brought to the side, but we still have many strengths.
"Tactically, we're looking to change one or two things and focus on the strengths we still have even without him."
It did look as though the Warriors would cope without Velez after a bright start, with strikers Fazrul Nawaz and Miroslav Pejic looking particularly dangerous.
However, their failure to make the most of their early dominance proved costly as Harimau Muda eventually forced their way into the contest, issuing their first warning shot in the 35th minute when Amirul Hisyam's speculative 25-metre effort came back off the bar.
A minute later, the deadlock was broken when Bennett, having intercepted Adam Nor Azlin's attempted through pass, surrendered possession inside his own box to Syahrul, who made no mistake finishing past goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan.
For the second goal, Man-of-the-Match Adam was allowed to turn his opponent far too easily and lay the ball into the path of Kumaahran, who calmly found the far corner.
Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail didn't hide his joy after the final whistle, claiming the result was even better than their last win - an impressive 1-0 win over another of the title contenders, Albirex Niigata, in July.
"Tonight, the players were tremendous... This win is even better than the one against Albirex," said Razip.
"Our main problem has been consistency and maintaining our momentum as we are a young and inexperienced side.
"But, tonight, the players were motivated because we were playing the one of the biggest teams in Singapore football."
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER RESULT
- Brunei DPMM 2
- Young Lions 0
- WARRIORS: Shahul Rayyan, Daniel Bennett, Syaqir Sulaiman, Marin Vidosevic, Irwan Shah, Thomas Beattie (Emmeric Ong 74), Karlo Ivancic (Hazim Faiz 78), Kevin McCann (Hafsyar Farkhan 78), Hafiz Rahim, Miroslav Pejic, Fazrul Nawaz
- HARIMAU MUDA: Ramdhan Hamid, Kenny Pallraj (Ashmawi Yakin 85), Annas Rahmat, Syawal Nordin, Nazirul Naim, Amirul Hisyam, Irfan Zakarian (Syafwan Syahlan 62), Syahrul Azwari, Adam Nor Azlin, Syazwan Andik (Shahrul Igwan 46), S Kumaahran
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Nor Azlin (Harimau Muda)