The Lion City Sailors put last week’s 2-1 defeat to Albirex Niigata (S) behind them in emphatic style as they eased past Young Lions 5-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night (29 June) to return to winning ways in the Singapore Premier League (SPL). 

Goals from Song Ui-young, Shahdan Sulaiman and Hafiz Nor put the defending champions 3-0 up at the break, before Kim Shin-wook and Maxime Lestienne joined in the act in the second half. 

Although the Young Lions did pull one back through Glenn Kweh late on, there was no stopping the Sailors from extending their lead at the top of the eight-team SPL standings.  The win restored the Sailors’ six-point lead over second-placed Albirex – although the White Swans have a game in hand.

The assured display was one that pleased Head Coach Kim Do-hoon. 

“I told the boys before we came out (onto the pitch) that the only way we can shake the last result off – a painful defeat – is to turn it around by winning this match. And that’s exactly what we did tonight.

“I’m happy that we got several goals, but what’s more important was that we brought everything we wanted to – we were in control and playing the football that we want to play. 

“I also want to thank the fans who were behind us and out here till even after the final whistle when they could have easily stayed home after the last defeat,” said the 51-year-old. 

While Young Lions started off in enterprising fashion, it was the Sailors who settled in well and scored the opening goal after just 11 minutes. Shin-wook’s presence in the box caused the initial chaos in the box following Maxime’s inswinging corner, before Song prodded in from unmissable range to put the defending SPL champions ahead. 

Wookie continued to make an impact upfront as he was fouled by Syed Akmal just outside the Young Lions’ box in the 14th minute. Shahdan curled home the resultant free-kick with class to put the champions two goals up. 

After wasting a few chances, the Sailors found a third just before half time in fortuitous circumstances. Hafiz lashed into an empty net from 25 yards out after Young Lions goalkeeper Ridhwan Fikri had stayed down after an aerial challenge against Shin-wook. 

Wookie finally got the goal he craved for 11 minutes into the second half. He converted from the spot for his 11th of the season to put the Sailors 4-0 up after Saifullah Akbar was brought down by Syahrul Sazali in the area. 

The Sailors’ fifth and final goal came via Maxime, whose tireless work in the attacking third paid off as he pounced on Joel Chew’s loose pass in the 66th minute, before proceeding to fire a crisp low shot in between Ridhwan’s legs. 

Maxime was then brought off along with Shahdan and Diego Lopes for the final 20 minutes as coach Kim made the decision to rest tired legs. The Young Lions regained some control as the Sailors substitutes settled into the match, and they found a consolation on 78 minutes with Glenn squeezing a grounder past Hassan Sunny to deny the latter his sixth clean sheet of the season. 

Letting in that goal was something that dismayed coach Kim and he has demanded improvement in both the attacking and defensive areas in the next match – a tough away clash against Tanjong Pagar United at Jurong East Stadium on Sunday evening (3 July). 

“Again we conceded a goal – that’s something that we still need to work on. And while we got the goals, we still need to be more clinical in front of goal,” said the South Korean. 

“We need to continuously work in training to become better. Of course we can never be perfect, but we aspire to play football that is as close to perfect as possible.”