Three braces, one hat-trick and a 15th different scorer for the season.
A ruthless Lion City Sailors put Young Lions to the sword in interim Head Coach Luka Lalić’s first match in charge on Saturday (13 August) evening, claiming a record-breaking 10-1 win at Jalan Besar Stadium to go four points clear at the top of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) table.
This is the Sailors’ biggest win since their 2020 inception – superseding the 8-0 victory over Geylang International in April 2021 – and they also became just the second side in league history to hit double digits in a match since Geylang did so in 10-2 victory over Young Lions in August 2003.
The emphatic result on his bow as SPL head coach should have given Luka much satisfaction, but the new man at the helm refused to draw any conclusions from this match – preferring instead to focus on the voyage ahead.
“Maybe for some players, they would have enjoyed this. But for me, I don’t really look at this result. This is not a realistic picture of the league and opponents that we’re going to face,” said the 35-year-old.
“Young Lions have had a difficult schedule this week, and these young boys didn’t get much rest at all, and we took advantage of that.
“But there are several things that can be improved and need to be improved. I always look at things from a negative standpoint first and I’m putting my focus on the areas that can be worked on from next week onwards.”
All eyes were on Luka’s first Sailors lineup and he chose to keep faith with most of the same eleven that started the 4-0 win over Balestier Khalsa a week ago. Izwan Mahbud remained in goal, Amirul Adli continued to wear the captain’s armband while Adam Swandi was retained in central midfield.
The solitary change was Naqiuddin Eunos coming in at right back with the 25-year-old making just his second start of the season.
From the get-go, the defending SPL champions played with a high level of intensity, and it was no surprise they opened the scoring after just seven minutes. Izwan’s long punt upfield was knocked on by Kim Shin-wook, with Maxime sprinting onto the ball, before rounding Young Lions goalkeeper Ridhwan Fikri to slot into an empty net.
Scorer turned creator just five minutes later. Maxime laid an exquisite through ball for Gabriel Quak to slot beyond the onrushing Ridhwan and double the Sailors’ advantage.
It was 3-0 by the 15th minute with Shin-wook turning well in the box to score with a low shot after Song Ui-young’s pass bounced off a Young Lions defender and into his path.
Young Lions did pull one back a minute later through Abdul Rasaq, but the Sailors’ three-goal lead was restored in the 33rd minute with Maxime producing an inch-perfect dinked cross for Gabriel to thump in an emphatic volley for his second of the night.
Gabriel would return the favour just a minute later, his pass putting Maxime into acres of space to score from a tight angle and make it 5-1.
Maxime’s night was not done just yet as he carried his irresistible form into the second half. The former PSV Eindhoven winger first teed up Shin-wook for a clinical low finish on 50 minutes, before repeating the trick 11 minutes later for the big no. 9 to complete his third SPL hat-trick and put Luka’s side 7-1 up.
Two goals and four assists exemplified Maxime’s massive influence as he came off to a deserved standing ovation in the 67th minute to be replaced by Hami Syahin.
Shin-wook, Pedro Henrique and Diego Lopes were then subsequently subbed off as well, as Luka went with an all-local Sailors eleven for the latter stages of the game and their replacements wasted little time in making an impact.
Just like the last game, Faris Ramli came off the bench to good effect with two delightful deliveries for Song to fire low past a hapless Ridhwan in both the 74th minute and 81st minute – as the away side went 9-1 up.
The Sailors put the icing on the cake on 85 minutes, with Hami benefitting from an excellent Adam ball over the top for his first goal in Sailors colours and that helped the club create history in the process.
The huge win meant the Sailors improved their goal difference to 44, five better than nearest challengers Albirex Niigata (S) and it was one that gave Man-of-the-Match Gabriel much satisfaction.
“We didn’t allow it (the coaching change) to affect our game. We are all professionals, so we went into the game trying to do our job – and we delivered. Ultimately, it’s a very good team victory.
“Coach Luka’s been with the Sailors’ setup for a few years now, so there should be no problems for him to settle in. We are looking forward to what more we can do together under his charge,” said the 31-year-old.
As for Luka, he is already looking beyond this game and laying down his philosophy further to help the Sailors maintain their title charge.
“The players enjoyed the victory, no doubt. But from Monday onwards, we’re going to turn a new page and make a new start. There’re areas for us to work on to become a better team.”