|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Teng Kiat
Albirex Niigata (S) notched their fifth consecutive win on Wednesday night against the Courts Young Lions with a 1-0 victory, but their coach Koichi Sugiyama claims that he “didn’t expect” such a dream start to the new season.
“To win five consecutive games is very difficult but our players are doing a very good job, and I am proud of my players,” he said.
Despite being early pacesetters with five wins out of five to top the table, the Japanese coach warned that his side has not reached their peak and need to improve as winning was the “most important thing”.
“We should have done much better today,” Sugiyama asserted.
“For me, the most important thing is to win. The winning margin is not important; winning is. That’s why we have to improve the quality of our game.”
Sugiyama also dismissed claims that his side would be under pressure to keep up their perfect record, while maintaining that his confidence about landing the league title has not changed.
“The past is past [and] now we just want to concentrate on the next game; there is no pressure,” he said.
“Before the season started, I was confident for [about] the title. But we have just [only] finished five games, so the confidence has not changed. I don’t have more confidence or less confidence.
“Our players are very calm and confident.”
Meanwhile, Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar admitted that his side lost to the “better team”, but remained proud of his players’ efforts against an in-form opponent.
“They gave everything,” he praised.
“Generally, I am happy with the boys. I am quite happy with the last ten minutes where we actually pushed them and we made them sit real deep in their own half. Unfortunately, the equalizer couldn’t come in.”
The ex-Singapore captain acknowledged that his side needed to be more clinical in front of goal, citing a lack of self-belief and confidence, but is “pretty sure” they will get better as they work more in training.
Despite his side being hamstrung by National Service (NS) issues, and the administrative mix-up that led to ineligible players being fielded in their first four games, Aide remained optimistic.
“In a way, it gives me opportunities to see other players like Faiz [Salleh] and Farhan [Rahmat], to see how they fare,” he explained. “It is important that these players are given the chance to start and that they use that as a platform to shine.
“I am happy with preparing this team with the available players.
“This year, we are using [the league as a] platform to develop players and create a wide pool of players for the SEA games in 2015. I am confident that this team, with the players that we have, will grow [stronger].”
Aide revealed that he was considering looking at the Under-18 squad for possible players to bring in due to injuries and NS issues limiting his options, but believes the team will ultimately still have the quality to cope with more experienced opponents.
“The players need time to adapt to my philosophy, [and one] positive side is that we didn’t get whacked [against stronger teams previously],” he pointed out.
“They [just] need fine-tuning [to get better].”