SINGAPORE - He may have been unveiled as the new Home United coach just a day before the match, but Radojko Avramovic was able to make an instant impact against the Young Lions at Jalan Besar on Wednesday (July 3) night.
Well known for designing set-pieces for his team to unlock defences when he was the national coach from 2003 to 2012, it was again one such move in the 11th minute that earned his new side the three points as the Protectors beat Young Lions 1-0.
Adam Swandi played a short corner to Hami Syahin, who fizzed a low cross across the six-yard box and skipper Abdil Qaiyyim was on hand to slam home the winner.
While Avramovic did not attend the post-match media conference, his assistant Noh Rahman paid tribute to the 69-year-old Serb, and said: "From my time with the national team, he was already the mastermind of set-pieces. With his input, we worked on it in training and I'm glad it paid off."
The match, however, was marred by controversy in the second half when Home scored a brilliant counterattack goal through Faritz Hameed in the 57th minute, only to have referee Nathan Chan pull back play, disallow the goal, and award a free-kick to the Young Lions for a foul on Nur Luqman Rahman.
Without a two-goal cushion, Home lived on the edge, especially when Adam and goalkeeper Nazri Sabri had to be replaced due to injuries. They rode their luck when Shahrul Nizam Anwar's header came back off the post in the 80th minute.
Noh Rahman hailed his team's ability to hold on for the win that lifted them to fifth in the nine-team Singapore Premier League with 17 points from 13 games. Young Lions remained bottom with 10 points from 12 games.
He said: "If I can be as diplomatic as possible, I never experienced such an incident. But this was a massive three points.
"To come out today and play like this with injury and suspension (Home had six players ruled out for this game), it was a brave performance."