GARENA YOUNG LIONS 3
(Hami Syahin 5, Hazim Faiz 16, Khairul Amri 50)
WARRIORS FC 1
(Jonathan Behe 85)
If Hougang United are the S.League’s Leicester City, then Warriors FC coach Jorg Steinebrunner must be the equivalent of beleaguered Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. Both are dead men walking because they don’t seem to listen to anyone but themselves as they make bewildering decisions that leave their teams, both of which have illustrious histories, in precarious positions.
At least 20-time English champions Red Devils are still fighting for the top four and an FA Cup. The Warriors, nine-time S.League champions, on the other hand. are in a fight to avoid their worst-ever S.League finish.
Last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, they suffered a shocking 3-1 loss to bottom club Garena Young Lions, who had the dubious distinction of 10 straight league defeats going into the match.
Maybe it was the shaky presence of the Warriors FC’s second-choice goalkeeper Zainol Gulam, who started because of Yazid Yasin’s suspension – Zainol, who looked decent in the 1-1 draw against Brunei DPMM FC last week, committed some schoolboy errors to give away at least one goal as he pushed a shot into Hazim Faiz’s path in the 16th minute, after Hami Syahin had opened the scoring nine minutes earlier.
Maybe it was the return of Singapore’s No. 1 striker Khairul Amri, who made his first start of the season for the Young Lions – the 31-year-old showed his worth by shrugging off Madhu Mohana and Ismail Yunos to score his team’s third five minutes into the second half.
Maybe it was Steinebrunner’s stubborn refusal to keep faith in his Prime League import Marijan Suto, who had salvaged a precious point with his late equaliser against defending champions DPMM on his debut – which is like dropping the red-hot Marcus Rashford, in a way.
But just like how the odds unexpectedly dropped in favour of the Young Lions pre-match, anticipation of an upset gradually filled the arena, and it eventually materialised.
Jonathan Behe’s eighth goal of the season in the 85th minute reduced the arrears for the Warriors, but it was too little too late as their fifth defeat in 11 league games left them entrenched in seventh place out of nine teams, while the Young Lions remained bottom, but are now level on six points with Balestier Khalsa, who have a better goal difference.
At least the Young Lions can claim to be a developmental side with many, but not all, under-21 players. At least Balestier can console themselves in the fact that their squad can boast of no more than 10 international caps in total.
But Warriors FC are running out of excuses. They have more players (10) than the Tigers have caps, but are still languishing in the bottom half, 11 points adrift of league leaders Albirex Niigata with 13 games left.
Sure, the Young Lions deserve credit for pulling off a win that only a handful of clairvoyant and optimistic punters expected but it was no surprise the post-match press conference centred more on Steinebrunner’s future than the Young Lions resurgence.
The 44-year-old German said: “I don’t care what people say about my future. Speculation is part and parcel of being a football coach but as long as I am entrusted with this team, I will do my job.
“I cannot do anything about things that happen outside of my job and if things go to the negative side, I won’t be the first coach to lose my job. So, I am not thinking and wasting time on that. My focus has always been the next game and it is the same today as well.
“I am not going to get any sleepless nights worrying about these things. Whatever happens, happens but as long as I am in charge, I will do my job to the best of my ability.”
GARENA YOUNG LIONS: Benjamin Bertrand, Rusyaidi Salime, Amirul Adli, Joshua Pereira, Zakir Samsudin (Gareth Low 78), Shannon Stephen, Firdaus Kasman, Hami Syahin (Muhelmy Suhaimi 70), Fareez Farhan, Hazim Faiz, Khairul Amri (Muhaimin Suhaimi 63)
WARRIORS FC: Zainol Gulam, Ismail Yunos (Ignatius Ang 70), Madhu Mohana (Hafiz Osman 73), Kento Fukuda, Zulfadli Zainal, Hafiz Rahim, Nikola Rak, Poh Yi Feng (Emmeric Ong 54), Hafiz Nor, Ridhuan Muhamad, Jonathan Behe