Lee shifts Home focus from defence to attack

Having spent the whole of 2012 bemoaning his Home United side's poor defending, Lee Lim-saeng would have been heartened by Thursday's 0-0 draw with DPMM FC.

The flying Canadian on one of his magical runs.
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

The Protectors had a season to forget in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League last year as they finished fifth despite being tipped to challenge for the title, and it was arguably their problems at the back that cost them as they conceded 29 goals in 24 games, nine more than Balestier Khalsa who had the best defensive record but finished one place below.

Throughout last season, Lee, an ex-Korea Republic international who made his name as a no-nonsense defender, could be seen cutting a frustrated figure down the touchline as his defenders made error after error, but there were no such problems at the Bishan Stadium on Thursday as his new-look backline looked remarkably steady in Home's season opener against the Bruneian outfit.

Instead, having lost the likes of Frederic Mendy, Shotaro Ihata, Qiu Li and Shi Jiayi during the off-season, their failure to pick up all three points stemmed from a lack of imagination in attack, which left Lee feeling slightly conflicted following the final whistle.

"I wanted to win tonight's [Thursday's] game and unfortunately we could only draw," he said. "But I respect my players' effort.

"We are a new team. We are still getting to know each other and the players are still adapting to our system.

"I really appreciate their effort. Of course, I was happy to watch our defenders and the way they kept a clean sheet but hopefully our attackers can start scoring in the next game."

Nonetheless, in stark contrast to most of his post-match press conferences last term, Lee looked positively upbeat after the draw with DPMM and believes his side, who retained just five players from 2012, are slowly but surely finding their feet as a unit.

"Of course I want to score a lot of goals in a home match like tonight [Thursday]," he added. "But football is like this - anything can happen on the pitch.

"From watching our play, I think it is very positive. If we can keep it this way I believe we will show a higher level of performance, so hopefully they can maintain this until the end of the season.

"We have made a new team and the players are working very hard with me. They follow the Home United philosophy - fitness, discipline, commitment - and understand their roles in terms of pressure and possession.

"We are aiming for perfection and we are not perfect yet, but we are headed in the right direction.

"I think our fitness levels were much better than the opponents. In the first half, the players were a little nervous but after that, I can say we were better than our opponents."

Plenty of attention was drawn to Home's marquee signing Lee Kwan-woo - an ex-South Korean international - and the midfielder impressed from general play with his composure and passing ability, although his delivery from set-pieces was slightly disappointing.

Despite that, his coach was buoyed by his display, along with that of fellow new face Sirina Camara, who put in a tireless shift at left-back in his first game for the Protectors since joining from Courts Young Lions.

"This was Lee's first time playing in the S.League," the 41-year-old said. "I think we can still play at a higher level of performance.

"But he has only played one game. I believe his performance will get better.

"Camara is good on the left but he also dropped into centre-back at times. I'm quite satisfied with his performance."

Home are back in action next Friday when they visit Albirex Niigata (S) at the Jurong East Stadium.

Image courtesy of Home United Football Club

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