Razip looking to emulate Harimau Muda A

Razip Ismail has revealed his Harimau Muda B side have been set the target of a top-five finish in the upcoming Great Eastern-YEO's S.League season.

Razip Ismail, Harimau Muda B
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Harimau Muda B are currently preparing for their maiden campaign in Singaporean football's top flight after it was confirmed they would be replacing Harimau Muda A, who will spend all of 2013 preparing for the year-end Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Given Razip's charges are all below the age of 19, many already believe they will struggle to emulate the feats of their under-23 predecessors, who took the S.League by storm last term and achieved an impressive fourth-place finish.

Just like with Ong Kim Swee's side last year, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have set a top-five finish for Harimau Muda B, something Razip is determined to achieve despite the obvious difficulties.

"It's very hard to set a target when you're playing with an under-19 side," he said.

"But the FAM have already set the target for us to achieve the same as Harimau Muda A did at the very least - a top four or five finish.

"It's going to be difficult but it's good for us to try and see where we stand in a professional league."

Harimau Muda B had a brief taste of what the S.League has to offer in 2012 when they beaten by Gombak United in the first round of the RHB Singapore Cup, but they were given a real baptism of fire on Thursday when they met reigning champions Tampines Rovers in a pre-season friendly and fell to a 3-0 defeat, courtesy of an Ahmed Fahmie strike and a brace from 42-year-old Aleksandar Duric.

However, Razip insisted that their display against the Stags was far from their best, and was hopeful his side could improve before the season kicks off, which is rumoured to be on February 20.

"To me I'm not satisfied with the overall performance of my players," the 50-year-old admitted. Before we came here, we played against Sime Darby - a [Malaysia] Super League team - and we were much better than in this game.

"I don't know what happened today [Thursday] and I'll have to ask the players. Perhaps when they play against experienced teams, they show the opponents too much respect.

"I think we're still lacking experience and maturity in our game because we our players are only 18 or 19 years of age. To me, today's [Thursday's] game is a very good experience for the players.

"It allows us to analyse our performance against an S.League team and hopefully we can fare much better when the league gets underway."

Although Harimau Muda A were based at the Yishun Stadium last season, Razip's side will play their home games at the Pasir Gudang Stadium over the coming year, something their coach hopes they will be able to make full use of.

"Maybe in terms of the crowd, the ground and the environment we might have a slight advantage," the ex-Kuala Lumpur boss added. "I think we'll have to use that to our advantage.

"But we still have to play all the teams home and away and, for me, every team in the S.League is a strong team

"Every game will be hard for us and we need to improve further and play well in every game even though the odds are stacked against us."

Despite the comprehensive defeat, there were some positives for the Malaysian side to take from Thursday's outing.

In particular, centre-back Wan Ahmad Amirzafran looked steady in defence despite coming up against the threat of Duric and Sead Hadzibulic, while left winger Ridzuan Abdulloh Pula and striker Faizat Ghazali occasionally threatened in the attacking third.

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