Young Lions go down fighting to Ceres

Two goals in extra-time from Philippines invitees Ceres La Salle saw them triumph the Garena Young Lions 3-1 in the preliminary round of the Singapore Cup on Sunday at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Stephan Schrock's 44th minute goal looked set to hand Ceres the victory inside regulation time, until Joshua Bernand Pereira equalised with just three minutes to go.

But the Young Lions were no match for their opponents in extra-time, with Kim Sang Min and Schrock both scoring a minute apart from each other to secure the victory.

It was perhaps a lack of quality for the Young Lions compared to Ceres, a team boasting several internationals, which contributed to their cup exit as coach Patrick Hesse suggested.

“Perhaps it’s the best performance [I’ve witnessed] since the beginning of the season,” Hesse told reporters after the match. “Today, it’s a very good game because you played one of the best team in Philippines.

“I thought at 1-1, we would win the game, but we didn’t. What I liked is that the players fought and tried to play good football. I am sure we can do better, but sometimes, we don’t have enough [quality].”

In fact, the Young Lions actually matched their more illustrious opponent throughout the first half.

In the 12th minute, a well-worked move saw Fareez Farhan picked out Pereira unmarked at the far post, but the midfielder failed to put his effort on target.

Two minutes later, Shannon Stephen did well to prevent Patrick Reichelt’s effort from rolling in after the striker got in behind before flicking the ball past the onrushing Zharfan Rohaizad.

They were perhaps lucky in the next minute when goalkeeper Zharfan missed the ball completely and allowed Schrock an attempt on an unguarded goal mouth, but the forward sent his effort along the line instead.

A sweeping counter-attack from the Young Lions saw Muhaimin Suhaimi putting Hazim Faiz through on goal, only for the forward to be thwarted by Philippines custodian Louie Casas.

Then right on the stroke of half-time, Schrock broke the offside trap to meet Manuel Ott’s pass, before rounding Zharfan and slotting into the empty net.

Ceres had a number of chances to seal off the victory in the second half but were wasteful.

Carlos Martinez in particular was a guilty party, missing three straight opportunities in a five-minute spell.

That helped the Young Lions to grow in confidence once more, and they almost equalised when Fareez saw a shot deflected narrowly wide in the 84th minute.

The attacker was at it once again three minutes later, forcing Casas into another save.

From the resulting corner, the Young Lions hit the crossbar twice, before Pereira finally swept in the rebound for his first goal of the season to bring the tie into extra-time.

But it was during this period where the gulf in quality and experienced showed.

In the 99th minute, a Steuble free-kick was headed on by Reichelt for Kim, and the Ceres captain forced the ball in with a thumping header.

Barely over a minute later, they found the back of the net once more. A hopeful punt from the back was nodded on by Schrock into an empty net, with Zharfan was left in no man’s land as he attempted to come out for the ball.

While there was to be no more goals, both set of players had a coming together in the second period of extra-time, which saw several cards handed out by referee Ahmad A’Qashah.

It was an incident that Ceres coach Ali Go deemed part and parcel of football.

“Everyone started late challenges, the emotions were there,” Go said. "That's football.

“Even if you are in the highest level in Europe things happen. It’s up to how the referee controls the game. I was shocked because players were running around the pitch but the referee just stood there.

“But at the end of the day friendship was still there. Everyone shook hands and that’s good for the sport.”

Go also felt that the Young Lions did their best to make things hard for his team, something which he did expect.

“They gave everything they had… I think experience won it, but the Young Lions did play a very good game,” Go explained.

“I was expecting a hard game against the Young Lions. I watched some of their games… they lost but they were fighting all the way against the S.League giants. I was expecting that.

"For me we still had the edge, but I told the boys if they don’t play 100% they are going to have a hard time.”

As for Hesse, he felt that the game showed just how much progress they have made.

“Every time you play such teams, you progress. It’s very, very good,” Hesse stated. “Here in the S.League, we have also hard games to play. Every game, every training session we get better.”

“You can see now physically they are better. When I first took over in February, the players struggled to complete 90 minutes and will have cramps. But today, they played 120 minutes without problems. I am very, very proud.” 

Photo: S.League