Young Lions' resurgence down to fun
Winger Suria says Young Lions' resurgence is down to them enjoying their football
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Today, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
They dragged themselves off the bottom of the 10-team Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League standings earlier in the week.
And now that the Courts Young Lions have broken that psychological barrier, they have their sights set on climbing up the table, starting tonight against Albirex Niigata at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
It is a daunting task for the young developmental team, but there is none of the usual fear most would expect when the league's second-worst side face the second-best team.
In fact, the Young Lions seem to think they can bag all three points.
There is something strange brewing in the Young Lions' dressing room, and according to winger Suria Prakash, the ingredient that seems to make all the difference is fun.
"We're enjoying our football now, and in terms of playing style, this is the most fun I've had in my career. I think that's the main reason we're doing so well," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"We're dominating the game, keeping possession, and we really enjoy playing like that."
Suria could well be on to something.
The Young Lions - whose players formed the bulk of the Singapore Under-23 side that fared so badly at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June - have played five games in the S.League since the ill-fated regional joust, and they are starting to entertain.
Two wins - over defending league champions Warriors FC and Harimau Muda - two draws and a 3-1 loss to Hougang United have seen Juergen Raab's side move onto 12 points, just four adrift of sixth-placed Home United.
"I think we can beat Albirex. They are a good team, a fit team, and the last time we played, they beat us 2-0," said the 21-year-old, who scored a 73rd-minute equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Balestier Khalsa last Friday.
"So, a draw this time would be a good result. But I think we can win."
Suria paid tribute to the presence of Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri, the Canadian pair who were not involved in the SEA Games.
He says they have helped the team settle into their new style of football.
The duo, along with Suria and Adam Swandi, have formed a dangerous partnership in the attacking third.
"We're all working hard and enjoying the game now, and if the four of us do manage to gel, we will get even better," said Suria.
Unfortunately for the Young Lions, El-Masri is still struggling with a swollen knee and is doubtful for tonight's fixture.
Not that Suria is fretting, though.
He said: "But don't forget, we're still missing Shahfiq Ghani (injury) and Shamil Sharif (National Service commitments). Once those guys come back, we'll get better for sure."
Adopting their current style was not all fun and games at the start, when German coach Raab took over from Aide Iskandar - who resigned after the SEA Games.
Said Suria: "(Raab) forced us to play possession football and he was very strict about it.
"He doesn't want you dribbling too much and he'll stop play if you take too many touches.
"We just had to adapt, but now we're really enjoying it."
What Suria and the rest of the side will enjoy most is seeing their brand of football translate to consistent results.
He said: "If we keep playing like this, and work hard in training, I think we can maybe finish in the top half."
DPMM go top
Brunei DPMM finally ended their winless run in the S.League with a 3-1 win over Geylang International at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan last night.
The home win lifted the Bruneian side to the summit of the S.League on goal difference, at least for the next 24 hours.
Second-placed Albirex Niigata, level with DPMM on 26 points, play lowly Courts Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Before last night, Steve Kean’s DPMM had gone five league matches without a win, drawing four of those games.
But they took an early lead when Azwan Ali scored after just eight minutes.
Shawal Anuar pulled a goal back for Geylang in the 33rd minute, but Azwan Saleh restored DPMM’s advantage just six minutes later.
The S.League’s top scorer Rafael Ramazzotti added a third in the second half.