Aleksandar Ranković and his charges are eager to build on the momentum generated by the resounding 7-1 win against Tanjong Pagar United at the Jurong East Stadium last Saturday (1 July) when they face the Singapore Premier League’s (SPL) cellar dwellers Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium this Friday (7 July).

And although their opponents on Friday have only accumulated five points across 16 games, central defender Lionel Tan warned about the threat the Young Lions side can pose and called for his team to take the Young Lions seriously.

“Like any other team in the league, they are coming on the pitch to win, and it is quite evident they have made things troublesome for us for the past two occasions we played against them,” said the 26-year-old. 

“On the first occasion, we only managed a draw, and they also made things difficult for us the second time. It is really very important that we go in 100 per cent and adhere to the game plan that coach Ranko has laid out.” 

The Sailors drew 1-1 with the Young Lions in April, with the disappointment of failing to capitalise after dominating the game worn on their faces when the full-time whistle was blown.

The second time the two sides met on 10 June, the Sailors won 4-1 in a match that could hardly be called a walk in the park. 

It is not uncommon for teams to sit back in a compact block when they face the Sailors, and the Young Lions have adopted a similar approach in those last two games, seemingly happy to sit back, defend and hit on the break. 

“We have faith in Coach Ranko’s plans, but even then, patience is the key to help us get the three points when we play against teams like Young Lions. We just have to be very patient and just play our style of football with confidence,” emphasised Lionel.

With eight SPL games left to play, the Sailors trail league leaders Albirex Niigata (S) by four points and are in front of third-placed Tampines Rovers by one point. 

While everyone in the dressing room is acutely aware this is a critical period that can define the Sailors’ season, Lionel is adamant that the bigger picture should not fill the minds of his teammates – steering clear of complacency and paying attention to nuances of each game must be the central focus instead. 

 “We all know how crucial it is moving forward, every single game and every single point matters. If we want to be champions of the league, we have to go and give our best for each game and do our best as a team,” asserted Lionel.

“But we shouldn’t look too far ahead of each game. The important thing is just to go game by game and win each one, because if we can do that, we will put pressure on the league leaders as well.

“We can’t be complacent and we don’t have room to drop any points,” said a serious Lionel. 

The Singapore international who scored his first-ever goal for the Sailors against Tanjong Pagar last Saturday, was grateful that he is helping the team on both sides of the field.

“The first goal is always wonderful to get and opening my scoring for Sailors is truly a blessing for me. Even though my primary goal is to help the team in defending, adding in some goals is a good way to contribute also,” he said.

And now, Lionel is hoping for Sailors fans to turn up to Jalan Besar Stadium in force to inspire the team to a fourth straight victory.

“When we played against Tanjong Pagar, it was all the way in the west at Jurong East Stadium, and we heard them loud and clear,” he said.

“They always make the atmosphere in the stadium so lively and energetic, and we’d love to have them and their support to give us the additional energy to perform on Friday.”