Razip sets sights on top-six finish in S.League

Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail is targeting a top-six finish in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League despite seeing his side lose 1-0 to Tampines Rovers on Wednesday.

Azzizan Nordin, Iskandar Hanapiah, Harimau Muda
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

The defeat at the Pasir Gudang Corporation Stadium, courtesy of Kunihiro Yamashita's 85th-minute header, condemned the Young Tigers to a second straight loss in the league to leave them in seventh place.

Nonetheless, Razip is still targeting a top-half finish as his side seek to do battle amongst the best sides in the extra half round of the season.

"That's our target now - to finish is sixth position," he said. "If you can finish sixth, you get to play with the top teams.

"The gap [between the teams] is very close now but, in the last two games, we failed to collect any points.

"This has been quite bad for our standing and they [the other teams] are pushing us down. But our target is now to finish in the top six."

Although the ex-Kuala Lumpur boss was disappointed by the way his side lost the game so late on, he was nonetheless happy with the way they matched the defending champions for most of the 90 minutes, especially given they had a number of first-team players out injured.

"I'm very disappointed with the outcome of the match," Razip added. "To me, a draw would have been a fair result.

"We've let in goals late on in games but I think overall I'm satisfied with the players' performance. They played very hard against the defending champions, who have good and experienced players.

"It's very unfortunate we gave away the goal late in the game and also very unfortunate we failed to score from our chances, especially in the first half. But I have to accept that, no matter how hard you work, sometimes luck just isn't on your side.

"But we proved we can match them [Tampines] even with some of our regulars injured. Maxsius [Musa] has quite a bad ankle injury while Nashriq [Yahya] was absent from training for the past two days.

"I think the reserves came in and they gave their best, but we are far behind them [Tampines] in terms of experience. You could see that, especially in the second half, we lost a lot of easy balls and were under pressure."

Tampines coach Tay Peng Kee conceded the win had been far from straightforward, but was ultimately pleased his side got the result they needed to temporarily move five points clear at the top of the table.

"Of course, the performance wasn't up to expectations," he said. "But nevertheless, the important thing was the three points.

"It was crucial not to drop points today [Wednesday]."

For the second game running, the ex-Singapore international opted to start new signings duo Diogo Caramelo and Vitor Ladeiras on the bench, and he advised against expecting an instant impact from the Portuguese duo.

"I think they [Caramelo and Ladeiras] still need a bit more time to adapt to the team," Tay explained. "We cannot rush them.

"Basically, people might think they've been here for a long time but it's only been two weeks [since they arrived in Singapore]. It will need some time.

"They are still not used to the heat, especially today [Tuesday]. I think the humidity here is something that is difficult for them to adjust to.

"Technically, they are reasonably good [but] they still don't understand the tactics we are trying to accomplish. We need to look at them over the next ten days and train them.

"Hopefully by then, they can really understand what we're trying to do. You can see we're trying to play a pressing game rather than sitting back.

"They still don't understand yet which is why you can see [assistant coach] Rafi [Ali] and myself asking them to chase; that will probably take some time."

Tampines are back in action next Friday when they take on fellow giants Home United at the Jalan Besar Stadium, while Harimau Muda's next outing is a visit to Balestier Khalsa three days earlier.

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