Match Of The Week

Football: Albirex Niigata are not 'invincible', says Home United coach Aidil Sharin ahead of big clash

Home coach to target champions' weak areas in bid to end their unbeaten start to season

Home United's Song Ui Young in action against Balestier Khalsa in the Singapore Premier League earlier this month. The South Korean scored their second goal in Home's first win of the season.
Home United's Song Ui Young in action against Balestier Khalsa in the Singapore Premier League earlier this month. The South Korean scored their second goal in Home's first win of the season.PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Just three games into the new Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, defending champions Albirex Niigata have laid down a clear marker that they are still the team to beat.

With a perfect record of three straight wins, the Japanese side are three points clear at the top of the table as their charge towards a third straight title gathers pace.

Home United coach Aidil Sharin, however, believes the two-time defending champions are not invincible and wants his men to dent the White Swans' confidence when they meet today at Bishan Stadium.

"So far, no one has gone through a season unbeaten (in Singapore). If a team are unbeatable, I might as well surrender all three points now. Anything can happen," he told The Straits Times.

"Albirex have a new team this year and they are not at 100 per cent yet but they are a typical Japanese team - good technique, very fast and very fit.

"I have seen their weaknesses in their games. I won't publicly say what they are, but we are definitely going to target their weak areas.

"We have team spirit and I believe my boys will work hard for the win."



    Home v Albirex (Bishan Stadium), Tampines v Hougang (Our Tampines Hub) - 7.45pm


    Warriors v Tampines (Choa Chu Kang Stadium, 5.30pm)


    Hougang v Balestier (Hougang)

    Geylang v Home (Bedok) - 5.30pm.

Throughout the 21-year history of the S-League, the SPL's predecessor, no team have ever completed an entire campaign undefeated, although some sides came close.

In 1999, Home lifted the title after just one loss in 22 matches. Warriors FC, then called SAFFC, also suffered just one defeat that year but lost the championship on points. Three years later, the Warriors were beaten once in 33 games on their way to the title.

Albirex currently lead the nine-team standings with a maximum nine points, three ahead of the Young Lions and Balestier Khalsa.

Home are fifth on three points after a 3-1 win against Balestier and a 4-2 defeat by Brunei DPMM.

Aidil, a former Home midfielder who was appointed head coach in 2016, is linked with the vacant national coach job after V. Sundram Moorthy resigned last week.

The 40-year-old and Balestier's Marko Kraljevic are reportedly being considered by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for a caretaker role.

Aidil said: "It's nice that my name has been brought up and it would be an honour to coach the national team. Every club coach wants to lead a national team."

While Aidil declined to reveal if he had been approached by the FAS, he said: "All I can do now is to focus on Home and, regardless of who the future national coach is, I want my country to do well."

While he eyes an upset win to halt Albirex's march, his opposite number Kazuaki Yoshinaga is unhappy with the White Swans' inability to score more in the 2-0 win over DPMM last Saturday.

He said: "I want to encourage my players to attack and take risks. But there needs to be a balance as there cannot be too much individualism.

"It's a learning process and they can gain experience from matches how to make the correct decisions."

And he added on a light-hearted note on the kind of merciless touch his men need in front of goal: "Even if they have to use their buttocks to score, they have to do it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2018, with the headline 'Albirex are not invincible: Aidil'. Subscribe