Protectors goalless again at Jalan Besar
Ko Po Hui
Photography by Alfie Lee
Home United were made to settle for a goalless draw at Jalan Besar Stadium for the second week in a row when they were held by the Courts Young Lions on Thursday evening.
Having mustered no goals when they faced cellar dwellers Woodlands Wellington seven days earlier in front of the television cameras, they found the absence of a recording crew offering little help on the same artificial turf.
The result meant little for both sides, who were merely dutifully completing their share of the work in the final week of the 2012 campaign concluding this week.
Unsurprisingly, both Protectors coach Lee Lim Saeng and his Young Lions counterpart Robin Chitrakar did the obvious thing, leaving some of their regulars out and fielding fringe men who have not had as much to do throughout the year.
Home for instance continued to leave China-born Singapore internationals Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li out, yet even with the duo unsighted, Chitrakar refused to concede that things were made easier for his squad.
“Against a team like Home United, it is never going to be easy,” he said at the post-match press conference.
“Even without Qiu Li and Shi Jiayi, they are always a difficult team to play with.
“But from this game, you can see that we really want to win. But then, we missed a couple of chances, and they had their share of chances too.
“To have our boys show that they are able to match Home is definitely a good thing. Look at Anumanthan (Mohan Kumar) who came to play today and showed good promise for a young boy who is only seventeen.”
Anumanthan was the latest in a string of players Chitrakar elevated from the National Football Academy Under-18s side that finished second in the Prime League.
But the bright youngster, like his new teammates for the day, found it difficult holding off several early raids by the Protectors, who were keen to make up for lost time caused by a mysterious 30-minute delay to the game.
League leading scorer Frederic Mendy whizzed his way into the Young Lions box after only six minutes, and it took a timely tackle from centerback Sirina Camara to defuse a potential goalscoring opportunity.
Twice after that, Home had opportunities to score off dead-ball situations from the centre, wingback Masrezwan Masturi and Central African Republic international Franklin Anzite trying but failing to break the deadlock.
Young Lions goalkeeper Neezam Aziz deserved credit for stopping both attempts, and he did equally well coping with more such scary moments that came throughout the evening.
Mendy did get the ball past Neezam on 16 minutes, but his tap-in was ruled out for offside.
The visitors were gifted another opportunity twelve minutes before half-time in a melee in the Young Lions box, but Anzite saw his shot hit the upright, before an immediate switch of play took the ball well into the other end.
Hafiz Abu Sujad’s close-range angled effort was fisted away by Protectors custodian Nazri Sabri, before Benjamin Lee’s misguided header from the edge of the six-yard box glided over the bar.
Jonathan Toto too tried to use his head three minutes before the interval, but like his compatriot Mendy, he found himself falling foul of the offside flag.
It was the best the match would come to, as the second half turned out to be devoid of goalscoring chances worthy of note.
Mendy was one of the few with the chances, having had the flag come up against him again on 77 minutes.
But if misses and offside calls were part of the game for any striker, getting upset over a controversial final whistle was not.
With four minutes of added time already shown, the hosts found themselves a man down following a heavy clash midway into Home’s half, and treatment on the field consumed the best part of two minutes.
Yet the decision by K. Kalimuthu not to compensate for that lost time met with distressed protests from Mendy, who had to be restrained by several teammates, including Anzite.
It proved too late, though, as Kalimuthu, who had little to do throughout the 90 minutes or so of action, walked over and pulled out the red card, prompting the Frenchman to slunk his way straight to his bench before the customary post-match handshake could take place.
Thoughts were sought from Lee pertaining to that dismissal at the post-match press conference, though the Korean opted to be diplomatic on the occasion.
“Like I mentioned before about refereeing decisions, I always tell myself to be patient with them and respect whatever decisions they have made,” he said with a firm tone.
“But hopefully, on their part, they should review such decisions on videos. And as for Mendy himself, he shall not do it again as a player.”
The former Suwon Bluewings staff coach also showed his appreciation to the Home players for the effort they have put in this season.
“For the last three games, they have shown they have put their hearts into those games,” he pointed out.
“This is why I thank them for the effort. This is what I want for the future.
“With the conclusion of this season, I want to build a new team for Home United next season. You can be assured that we will play together as a team, which is my target for next year.”