Young Lions hope to continue giant-killing feat
GARENA YOUNG LIONS v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
The Garena Young Lions love nothing more than defying the odds.
Last Sunday, they pulled off a shock 1-0 win against Balestier Khalsa, a team who finished fourth in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last season.
Now, they have Albirex Niigata in their sights.
With the Japanese side fresh off an impressive 3-2 victory over defending champions Brunei DPMM, few are giving the Young Lions a chance at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
But Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse (above), who obtained a work permit in time to take charge of this game, is adamant that his boys will be no pushovers.
"We have a lot of very young but very good players," he told The New Paper before a training session at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday.
"These young players work very hard, and you know when you work very hard, you are always rewarded."
Despite missing senior striker Khairul Amri (calf injury) and playmaker Adam Swandi (National Service commitments) against Balestier, the Young Lions were boosted by encouraging displays from central midfielder Hami Syahin and winger Muhaimin Suhaimi.
Fareez Farhan, scorer of the winning goal in that match, feels his team have every chance of pulling off another upset against last season's RHB Singapore Cup and TNP League Cup champions.
"If we can put our chances away, then of course we can win every game," he said.
"We've been training hard and the team are very disciplined. If we can carry out the instructions by the coach well enough, then I think we can try to win the game."
The 21-year-old knows that picking up three points against Albirex is easier said than done though.
Last term, Albirex finished third in the table, while the Young Lions finished second from bottom.
"They are a cohesive unit, both attacking and defensively," Fareez said. "We are trying to play a similar style, keep possession and keep the ball moving. It's going to be tough."
Speaking to TNP at Jurong East Stadium on Thursday, Albirex coach Naoki Naruo refused to accept that the Young Lions game will be a walk in the park.
"I don't think the next game will be easy for us because both teams play the same style of football," he said.
"Possession is important for both teams so it is important to dominate the game.
"We want to keep the ball as long as possible, and we don't want to let them keep the ball.
"We want to pressure them up front and intercept the ball in good positions, and from that point, we want to attack."
Hesse, who witnessed the Albirex players pick apart the physically bigger Brunei DPMM team, heaped praise on the Swans.
"Albirex are a very, very good team," he said.
"They play fast, fluent football and have very good players. I like this kind of football. It will be difficult but it's a good match for our Young Lions."