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#sleague title race is now wide open

HUFC's coach Lee Lim Saeng after 3-1 win
With Brunei DPMM losing to defending champions Tampines 2-1 at Clementi that corresponded with Home United's 3-1 win at their Bishan base over the cellar-dwellers Harimau Muda last night, the S.League title threw wide open with merely one to two points separating the four teams at the summit.

These came after third-placed Warriors FC hit the kerb on last Sunday when they lost to Hougang United 3-2 that thwarted their chance to dethrone the Bruneians from the top of the standings and interestingly included fifth-placed Cheetahs in the title bid with only six points apart from the leaders.

The Protectors' second victory in five days (after they beat league leaders DPMM last Friday at Berakas) elevated them to the second spot of the standings that had them levelled on points but a superior goal difference ahead of their uniformed rivals.

This marked a stark contrast for Home United Coach Lee Lim Saeng who was able to have the luxury of placing regulars like Juma'at Jantan and French defender Sirina Camara on the bench, as compared to the overstretched period he endured during the start of the campaign.

However, given the tight fixtures ahead that careful planning is required for the Protectors to maximize their potential on a scaled-down basis, they catered for themselves, such getting the act together as soon as possible in the game, which they did.

Barely five minutes into the match, Qiu Li's close-range header off a corner immediately put the home side on a pole position before Japanese winger Bruno Castanheira double the tally eight minutes later via a shot that driven low past Harimau Muda's custodian Ahmad Solehin Mamat.

It wasn't that long before Home United consolidated their hold of the match when Fazrul Nawaz's tap-in to finish off a ball laid to him by ex-Lions' skipper Indra Sahdan Daud from the right in the box.

Nonetheless, the 27th goal by Ramzi Sufian for the Malaysian developmental squad momentarily lifted the spirit of the team, but it wasn't good enough to see their hosts seal the all important three points in the bag.

Speaking to the media after their thirteenth loss of the season, Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail cited the lack of experience and showing too much respect to Home United being some of the factors behind the defeat.

Said the former Malaysian international:"I think first half we made our mistakes and allowed the two goals scored by Home United whom I think my boys are showing too much respect to them,

"It was a much better second half for us that we just couldn't score, but this is the kind of tournament my team need to play against top opponents in order to improve, since development is an ongoing thing."

Having narrowed the gap at the top of league table did not have Coach Razip's counterpart resting on his laurels, as Coach Lee stayed cautious and focused on the days ahead this win.

"After we scored three goals in the first half, our intention was to keep the ball in the second half." shared the former Korean international of his tactics after the match.

"We will be facing Hougang United this coming Friday that means we only have two days to recover from the fatigue, especially after we played in Brunei last Friday and that's why I asked my players to score the goals early in the match, keeping the possession while conserving our energies for the next game."


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