Home United not throwing in the towel in S.League race - Aidil Sharin
Their hopes of a first S.League title since 2003 are looking increasingly slimmer after a 1-1 draw with Albirex Niigata (S) on Tuesday night, but Home United coach Aidil Sharin insists that they still have a say in this season's title race.
The Protectors paid the price for conceding an early goal, and needed a second-half equaliser from Adam Swandi to rescue a point against the White Swans at Bishan Stadium.
The result meant they stayed 16 points behind Albirex with four games in hand.
"We allowed them to score too early and we were sloppy in the first 45 minutes," Aidil said. "For that, we need to sit down and look at the game again to find out why.
"But we gave everything in the second half. Now we just have to move on and motivate the boys to look forward. Myself, and the boys are not giving up. Football is all about fighting and keep going.
"Anything can happen in football and the title is still open. Now we just have to look forward and try to get a result against Geylang [International] on Saturday. Hopefully from there, we can have a good atmosphere around the team before we play Albirex again [in the Singapore Cup semifinals]."
Meanwhile, Albirex counterpart Kazuaki Yoshinaga refused to entertain the idea of them being champions-elect, despite needing just eight points from their remaining four matches to clinch a second successive title.
"We've reached our target of 50 points, and the next one is getting 60 points," he explained. "The boys have their targets and they will make sure they achieve it.
"Furthermore, we have not won [the title] yet. The teams below us are still fighting for their AFC Cup slots so we have to give our best performances to be fair to the league. Definitely, we will not rest on our laurels."
Yoshinaga is also hoping that other sides take a leaf out of their book on how to defend against the free-scoring Home United.
"Today, my players worked hard and played good defensive game," the 49-year-old said.
"Probably other teams can look at how we defend, pick up one or two things and apply it."
The two teams will face off in a two-legged semifinal of the Singapore Cup on Sept. 27 and 30.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT