Young Lions make Ceres sweat for victory
Hesse's boys beaten, but give Philippine outfit a tough fight
CERES LA SALLE 3
(Stephan Schrock 44, 100, Kim Sang Min 99)
GARENA YOUNG LIONS 1
(Joshua Bernard Pereira 87)
For 120 minutes at Jalan Besar Stadium last night, the Garena Young Lions battled against a Ceres La Salle side boasting three foreigners and eight Philippine internationals, including two who used to play in the German and Dutch top flights.
Not for one minute were the all-local Young Lions outfit, with an average age of just 20 excluding captain Firdaus Kasman, outplayed or embarrassed.
In the end, Ceres, who reached the AFC Cup Round of 16 this season, just had that extra bit of class and experience as they claimed a 3-1 win after extra-time to advance to the quarter-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup.
The Philippine side will meet defending S.League champions Brunei DPMM FC next.
Former Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt man Stephan Schrock was the star of the show for Ceres as he broke the deadlock a minute before half-time, beating the offside trap and skipping past Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad to score.
The Young Lions refused to give up and they were rewarded for their endeavour with three minutes remaining.
A goalmouth scramble ensued after Taufiq Muqminin headed off the bar and Joshua Bernard Pereira was on hand to turn home a loose ball from close range.
The equaliser was enough to force extra-time but, in the 99th minute, Ceres reclaimed the lead when Patrick Reichelt flicked on a Martin Steuble free-kick for captain Kim Sang Min to nod home.
Just a minute later, they wrapped up the victory courtesy of another strike from Schrock, who again got in behind the opposition defence to send a looping header over a stranded Zharfan.
The intriguing encounter was marred slightly towards the end by ugly confrontations between both sets of players, although Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse preferred to focus on the positives from what he felt might have been his team's best display this year.
"Yes, that (the confrontations) is not good and I will speak with the players about it but, when you're that young and you show a real desire to battle, that's okay with me," said the Frenchman.
"Perhaps, it's the best performance since the beginning of the season… We played a very good game against one of the best teams in South-east Asia, but we must try to keep doing better."
The amount of resistance that the Young Lions put up might have surprised some, but not Ceres coach Ali Go, who said: "I was expecting a hard game against Young Lions.
"They may have lost many games this season, but I saw the clips and they were fighting all the way.
"I told my boys from the beginning that we were going to have a hard time if we give anything less than 100 per cent."