Aw calm about Home's title chances despite frustrating opener

Home United coach Philippe Aw believes his side can still challenge for the title, despite stumbling at the opening hurdle.

The Protectors were held to a 1-1 draw at Geylang International on Tuesday evening, as Ken Ilsø Larsen's opener was cancelled out by Jozef Kaplan's goal after halftime.

Fellow title rivals Brunei DPMM, Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC all picked up wins from their opening fixtures, while United had to settle for a measly point against a gritty Geylang side.

Despite the setback, Aw believes the title race is very much wide open.

“It’s a long, long season and to say that our title hopes are gone is a bit too far,” the first-year coach said at his post-match press conference.

“There’re games where they will drop points as well. Like I said before, this league is very competitive this year and it’s not easy to get wins – you can see everyone is scrapping away so far.”

The Protectors created several opportunities which they failed to put away, including a last-gasp effort which substitute Fazli Ayob prodded wide - something which Aw admitted his side has to work on in the days ahead.

“It’s disappointing we didn’t take all three points tonight,” he said.

“We created so many chances in the second half, especially that last one which was a wide open goal.

“We do know that we have the quality in attack and we’re confident that we can create chances.

“It’s all about the sharpness now; hopefully with more games to come, we’ll get into rhythm then our midfielders and strikers should be able to finish them off.”

While he was unable to mark his first official game in the Protectors hot seat with a win, the 39-year-old was nonetheless happy with how his players shaped up as well as the unwavering spirit which they showed in battling valiantly for a possible winner.

“It was an exciting experience (to be in the dugout) and I’ll love to come away with a victory,” he said.

“But let’s be honest, the ground today was hard and bumpy which was hard for us to play beautiful football.

“We came here with a plan to soak up the pressure, win the ball and go on the quick counter - which we did for the first goal.

“I also want to thank the players for fighting and chasing for the winning goal up till the very last minute. We showed good signs and we can only get stronger.”

The Protectors’ next S.League assignment will see them take on Hougang United in a televised clash at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.

Photo: Amirul Asyraf/Football Association of Singapore