Match Of The Week

Fandi's boys eye best finish in three years

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Geylang International v Young Lions

Bedok Stadium, 5.30pm


Fandi Ahmad's Young Lions have already broken a torrid two-year run of finishing at the bottom of the heap in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).

The Republic's Under-23 side who finished the last two years as the worst team in Singapore football, are now seventh in the nine-team standings, on 20 points - 10 clear of last-placed Hougang United, with only two matches left to play.

But today's match against Geylang International presents them with an opportunity to do even better. A win against the eighth-placed Eagles will secure seventh spot, the team's best finish since 2014, when they were 10th, two spots from the bottom of the then 12-team league.

"This is a very important match - a six-pointer - because Geylang have 18 points, and will jump above us if they win. We want to finish as high as we can," said Young Lions assistant coach Nazri Nasir.

He said the key will be concentration, something his team lacked when they conceded in the first minute of their 3-1 loss to SPL champions-elect Albirex Niigata last Saturday. They also allowed the Japanese side to score within two minutes of the second half.

"We just switched off. This issue comes on and off for us, and Fandi and I can only keep reminding them," he said.

"The team are totally different now than when we started the season. You can clearly see the improvement in organisation and defending, with some players also stepping up."

He expects Geylang to be a stern test: "They play a very direct form of football, and we must be tighter defensively and concentrate for the entire 90 minutes.

"But we will not change the way we play, we are not going sit back. We will attack and focus on what we're good at: we will counter-attack with speed and try to capitalise on set pieces.

"This time we need a win, there's no two ways about that. And we have a plan, that I believe the team can stick to - with concentration."

Shamir Osman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Fandi's boys eye best finish in three years'. Print Edition | Subscribe