Salim remains bullish about Rams' prospect

Salim Moin is confident his Woodlands Wellington side can finish in the top three of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League despite Tuesday's 2-1 home loss to Harimau Muda.

Woodlands Wellington vs Harimau Muda
Noah Tan

By Noah Tan

Salim had boldly tipped Woodlands, who ended the past three campaigns bottom of the pile, for a top-three finish this season following a slew of astute new signings to strengthen the squad.

However, despite an encouraging 2-2 draw with Warriors FC in their opening game last week, the Rams suffered an early setback to 2013 as goals from Harimau Muda's Maxsius Musa and Yazid Zaini, which sandwiched Woodlands midfielder Khalid Hamdaoui's fabulous strike, were enough to present the Malaysian outfit all three points.

Nonetheless, Salim believes the Rams, who also had defender Shahril Alias sent off in the 70th minute for picking up a second yellow card, would be able to pick themselves up from this defeat and go on to have a good season ahead.

"I am not worried about the loss," Salim said.

"Yes, I feel very disappointed we lost the game, but as long as they continue to play good football like they did against the Warriors, we will be able to pick up the wins.

"From now on, we must continue to work hard and make sure we get into the top three because that's my target this season."

Salim did however express his displeasure at Shahril's needless late lunge on Harimau goalkeeper Ilham Amirullah which led to the defender's sending off and urged his players to play more intelligently in the future.

"On my part, I should say, I feel disappointed with the red card," Salim added.

"The players should be more mature to handle such situations. You play against a young team, you must be sure you must get this sensitivity out of you.

"The red card could have been avoided and the players must be intelligent when making decisions.

"If you know the goalkeeper had already caught the ball, and you know you won't get to it, all you need to do is to avoid him and just forget about going for the ball rather than charging straight into the goalkeeper.

"The game is tense and Harimau's players are fast and energetic. My players are mature and should know how to handle such situations. If you are very slow, you get caught, and that's how he [Shahril] got the first yellow card.

Salim also played down suggestions of a tactical reshuffle for their upcoming games and reiterated his confidence in his entire squad.

"All my players I signed are all marquee players," Salim declared.

"I select the players based on their performance during the training. There are no guarantees of a first team spot for anyone.

"The players know if they perform well in training and understand the tactics well, then they get a chance to play because I have a very good squad. I have 20 good players, and I can change anybody."

One of the best players for Woodlands on the night was former Dutch international Hamdaoui, and Salim expressed his delight with the contributions of the playmaker but insisted his team were not over-reliant on the 32-year-old.

"My players will never just rely on Khalid," Salim declared.

"The only exception is that Khalid is a very intelligent player. You can see whenever he has the ball, he has that extra instinct; even when four or five players are surrounding him, he still can control the ball.

"And also because he has played in Europe for so many years, so he has the experience to cope with the game."

Although many have tipped Harimau's inexperienced team to struggle this season, Salim expressed his belief that the Under-21 team could defy pre-season expectations and finish in a decent position after admitting he was impressed with what he saw from them on Tuesday night.

"Credit must be given to Harimau Muda for playing a well organised and energetic game," Salim acknowledged.

"They kept on chasing after the ball, whenever they lost possession, they would get men back behind the ball, and that was fantastic from Harimau.

"This Harimau team is exactly the same as the Harimau A team. Their philosophy is the same, they've been together since young and their bond with each other is very strong.

"You can see they understand one another very swiftly, and when they've played together for so long it's very easy.

"Even if you change certain things the style of play will remain the same.

"But one thing I like, they're full of courage and full of fire. They want to win games, and that is most important.

"They can progress far, and if they continue playing like this, they can find themselves in a good position in the table at the end of the season. "

Salim's sentiments were shared by his Harimau counterpart Razip Ismail, who expressed his delight at having seen his young team defy the odds to beat Woodlands.

"I'm very happy we collected our first win tonight [Tuesday]," Razip stated.  

"To me the players are progressing very well as a team and they played a good game.

"From the beginning, the players were pushing hard and put Woodlands under pressure even though they were difficult opponents.

"I think we got complacent when Woodlands got their player sent off and so we got a bit lax defensively, which allowed Woodlands to score the equalising goal.

"But before that, we missed a lot of chances, and we could have scored a lot more."

Razip also claimed that his side would always try to get all three points in every game regardless of their opponents.

"We play to win in every game," Razip added.

"That's our target whoever we play.

"But it's only 2 games and there are many more games to go. I hope we can maintain our performance for the next few games. "

Woodlands will take on Home United in their next S.League fixture, while Harimau will clash with a revamped Tanjong Pagar side.

Image courtesy of S.League

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