Lee delighted with gritty Home victory

Home United coach Lee Lim-saeng was 'proud' of his players after Thursday's 2-1 win over Tanjong Pagar United in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League.

The Frenchman clears off the line!

By Gabriel Tan

The Protectors entered the game at the Bishan Stadium missing five first-team players, including Singapore internationals Shi Jiayi, Qiu Li and Lionel Lewis, and their absence proved costly as their team struggled without them, going behind in the 46th minute when a long-range freekick from Anthony Aymard bounced over Nazri Sabri and into the back of the net.

Nonetheless, Home hit back less than a minute later when Shotaro Ihata scored after being fed by Song Ui-young, but the Japanese striker then missed a golden opportunity to grab all three points in the 90th minute when his weak penalty was saved by Shamsudin Hashim.

Still, there was to be no denying the hosts, who went on to grab the winner in the eighth minute of injury-time when Jeremy Chiang made his way forward and lashed a powerful effort into the back of the net.

Given Home's injury crisis, Lee gave the likes of Chiang, Firdaus Idros and Rhysh Roshan Rai a chance to stake their claim for a regular starting berth, and was pleased with the way his fringe players stepped up to the task.

"Of course, this result makes me very happy," he told ESPNSTAR.com. "Especially given we had a lot of injured players, like Shi Jiayi, Qiu Li and Franklin [Anzite].

"I spoke to the players [who aren't normally in the starting XI] before the game and told them to be confident. I wanted them to feel they also had the ability to do a job for us.

"That's why I really appreciate what they gave me out there. If they work together they can show their quality, which is why I'm so proud of them tonight [Thursday]."

Most impressive of all was however 19-year-old Song, who was too much for the Jaguars midfield to handle, and Lee admitted he was quietly pleased with his youngster's display.

"He [Song] is just 19 years old," the ex-Korea Republic international added. "Early on in the season, he had a bit of an ankle problem and needed surgery that ruled him out to three or four months.

"He spent much of the first half of the season recovering then came back and scored 12 or 13 goals in 11 Prime League games.

"That wasn't bad so I wanted to give him confidence and as you can see, he's slowly but surely getting better."

Despite the painful nature of a late defeat, Tanjong Pagar coach Terry Pathmanathan was magnanimous at the final whistle and hailed the quality of their opponents.

"Of course it is quite disappointing not to get a point from the game," he said. "We tried our best but credit to Home - they were a much better team.

"Sometimes you have to accept reality - there was a vast difference in quality. Look at the chances they created compared to us.

"The 0-0 score at halftime was flattering to us."

Still, the former Singapore international did find some positives to take from his side's gritty display.

"We held on well in the first half and actually took the lead, although that proved to be short-lived," Pathmanathan added.

"The players worked hard and were giving their best even against a top team. It was good to see them putting in that kind of effort."

With that result, the Protectors are now up to fourth on the table while Tanjong Pagar remain third from bottom.

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