Fandi credits hard work for Young Lions' perfect start

The Singapore Premier League season is only a week old but the Young Lions have already surpassed last year's performance after stunning nine-time champions Warriors FC 1-0 at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium yesterday.

Irfan Fandi headed in Rusyaidi Salime's free kick in the 53rd minute to maintain their 100 per cent record after two games. They beat Hougang United 2-0 last week.

They are top of the table on six points and ahead of champions Albirex Niigata, who edged out Balestier Khalsa 1-0 for their second victory yesterday, on goal difference.

Even without imports, the Young Lions have already won one game more than last year when they claimed only one win and drew three of 24 games, scoring 10 goals and conceding 62.

Head coach Fandi Ahmad, who led the Young Lions to third-place finishes in 2004 and 2006, told The Straits Times: "It's all about hard work and teamwork. At 20 or 21, it is a bit late to try and improve our players' technique, but we can motivate them to work hard on tactics, set-pieces, fitness and discipline.

"We want to get them savvy with game situations which we replicate in training, and they have shown their willingness to get stuck in."

The identity of a counter-attacking team is starting to shine through, as exemplified by the Young Lions' second goal against Hougang, in which captain and centre-back Taufiq Muqminin raced the length of the pitch to finish off Zulqarnaen Suzliman's pass.

Irfan said: "The team have a good bond and are hungry to win despite lacking experience. Our fighting spirit is what pushed us through training and matches."

They will need all these ingredients to claim their third win in eight days when they play Balestier at Toa Payoh on Wednesday.

Fandi added: "Let's not get carried away, let's keep working.

"We want to perform well against Balestier before going for the Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy and try to convince the Singapore National Olympic Council we should go to the Asian Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2018, with the headline 'Fandi credits hard work for Young Lions' perfect start'. Print Edition | Subscribe