Beleaguered Young Lions finally win again

The Garena Young Lions ended their ten-match losing streak in style with a convincing 3-1 victory over out-of-sorts Warriors FC in front of 1,609 fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday evening.  

Two goals in the first 15 minutes set the tone for the evening, before Young Lions captain Khairul Amri scored his first goal of the season early in the second half to kill off the game.

Jonathan Behe pulled one back for the Warriors late on, but it was too little too late for the uniformed side as they slumped to their sixth successive game without a win.

In three of their last four matches, the Young Lions had conceded the opener inside the first five minutes – something which infuriated their coach Patrick Hesse.

It must have delighted the Frenchman then to enjoy a change in fortunes, with Hami Syahin tapping home at the far post after the Warriors defence had allowed Fareez Farhan’s left-wing cross to go unchecked.

Things got even better for the developmental side 10 minutes later as Warriors stand-in custodian Zainol Gulam inexplicably fumbled Fareez’s snapshot into the path of Hazim Faiz, who had the simplest of tasks to nod home into an empty net.

The Warriors woke up from their slumber thereafter and dominated the rest of the half, but found Young Lions goalkeeper Benjamin Bertrand in inspired form.

The former French Ligue 2 man first tipped wide a Nikola Rak 20-yard curler, before producing a stunning double save to deny both Hafiz Rahim and Ridhuan Muhammad.

The break should have given Warriors ample time to regroup, but the nine-time champions conceded a third goal four minutes after the restart instead.

From a quick-throw in, Amri easily shook off the attentions of both Ismail Yunos and Madhu Mohana inside the box before finishing clinically past a stranded Zainol.

Warriors could have pulled one back in the 56th minute, but Kento Fukuda’s header from Rak’s corner was hacked off the line by Joshua Bernard Pereira.

Amri was then carried off with an injury as the visitors continued to find openings in the final 30 minutes, but Bertrand came up trumps to block off close-range efforts from Hafiz Nor and Hafiz Rahim.

The 24-year-old was eventually beaten in the 85th minute, with Behe bundling home from close range for his eighth goal of the season.

However, there was no stopping Hesse from collecting his first win since taking over the Young Lions hot seat.

Assistant coach V Selvaraj took his place at the post-match press conference and lavished praise on his team’s best display of the season.

“We had a lot of hunger, defended well and took our chances,” he said. “The first goal was a good motivator for all of us and the boys worked very hard in this game.

“We collected the first challenges and took the second balls. This team is growing in terms of understanding. Usually we’re prone to lapses of concentration, but this time we stayed focused throughout and made less mistakes.

“If you want me to name a man-of-the-match, I have to say it’s the whole team. I believe this win is the start of many good things to come.”

Meanwhile Warriors counterpart Jorg Steinbrunner refused to entertain questions regarding his job security.  

“I don’t care about my future; the future is the club,” said the German. “This is part and parcel of being a football coach. I’m not going to waste time on this or worry about things.

“In the first 15 minutes, we did not put enough pressure which led to the two goals, but we dominated the next 30 minutes,” he added.

“Then we fell asleep in the first five minutes of the second half and conceded again, but we kept going. If not for their goalkeeper, we could have scored four or five.”