SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Young Lions 1
Home United 1
Standing at the top of his own penalty box, Young Lions midfielder Naqiuddin Ahmad booted the ball into the sky at the National Stadium last night, then, gripped by cramps, fell to the turf.
That was the moment that saw fast-rising tempers boil over in the ill-tempered 1-1 draw between Young Lions and Home United.
It was a minute before the end of regulation time and Fandi Ahmad's Young Lions were leading 1-0 and facing a barrage of attacks by an increasingly desperate Home United.
Home surged into the space around Naqiuddin and worked the ball into the box to Iqram Rifqi, who slammed it home to equalise.
The physical encounter had already witnessed seven yellow cards and a red card at that point, but, livid at what they perceived as a lack of sportsmanship, the Young Lions players and officials protested with match officials and their opponents.
Young Lions' assistant coach Nazri Nasir was sent to the stands, captain Irfan Fandi received a yellow card, and goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad even received a post-match red card after screaming at referee Farhad Mohd before storming off the pitch.
"We always talk about fair play and sportsmanship - is this fair? One of our players was down with cramps," said assistant coach S. Subramani, who stood in at the post-match press conference.
"I don't want to comment on the referee... but I think some of the yellow cards we received were (wrong), but we will talk to the boys about how to behave on and off the pitch," added the former Singapore international.
Home coach Aidil Shahrin was pleased with the spirit his charges showed despite not playing well, but he defended their decision to play on despite seeing the stricken Naqiuddin.
"Their physical play was not a problem for us, that's just football, but their player was down with cramps, not a head injury or an injury," said Aidil. "We have to give credit to these young warriors for making it a very tough match for us, but they need to learn.
"They hate to lose - that's good to see - but they need to learn to control their temper and respect the staff and coaches of their opponents."
Home were not completely innocent. Some of their players were seen shouting at the Young Lions, with a Home official also seen screaming and gesticulating at his counterparts on the opposing bench.
The hard-fought draw does little for the Young Lions' drive to climb up the nine-team standings - they remain in seventh position on 13 points. Home are third on 18 points, four behind second-placed Tampines Rovers, whom they face on Tuesday. Albirex Niigata are runaway leaders with a perfect 36 points from 12 games.
At Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Warriors beat Balestier 3-0 for a third straight win, with goals by Ignatius Ang and Jonathan Behe (two).