They may have endured a disastrous South-east Asia (SEA) Games campaign, but the Courts Young Lions - effectively the Republic's Under-23 side - are starting to show that they can mix it up with the best in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, and even dish out entertaining football.
The league's bottom side drew 1-1 with title-chasing Brunei DPMM at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, taking their post-SEA Games tally to four points from three games - even beating table-toppers Warriors FC 2-0 last Thursday.
They are still bottom of the 10-team standings, but have already matched the total points tally they managed in seven games before the regional meet.
DPMM remain third, three points behind leaders the Warriors.
The Brunei side's match last night proved to be an odd encounter.
The match saw a total of seven yellow cards and two reds - one for each side - dished out by referee Jansen Foo, but neither team took too much issue with his decisions.
They both, however, left the stadium feeling aggrieved at dropping two points.
"At the start we were in trouble, conceding that unnecessary penalty, and it wasn't easy to lift the team," said Young Lions coach Juergen Raab, who took over from Aide Iskandar after the SEA Games.
"But I can only say that it was fantastic what the team delivered in the second half. I'm happy with the draw, but maybe we deserved more."
DPMM needed a penalty to take the lead in the 18th minute, Rafael Ramazotti slotting home after Fadli Kamis was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.
The visitors were cruising, but were then reduced to 10 men when forward Adi Said received a straight red card in the 26th minute for appearing to throw an elbow at Young Lions defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi.
Ramazotti had two more opportunities to double the visitors' lead before the break, but found Young Lions custodian Syazwan Buhari up to the challenge.
The Young Lions came out battling in the second period, taking control but without actually carving out any real opportunities.
Even with 10 men, DPMM looked dangerous on the break, with the best chance falling to a wide open Paulo Sergio, who found the edge of the crossbar in the 68th minute with only Syazwan to beat.
He would rue that miss, as the Young Lions grew from strength to strength, taking the game by the scruff of the neck, and for the first time since the middle of the first half, looking like a team that held the numerical advantage.
Sherif El-Masri rose highest to head home an Adam Swandi corner in the 78th minute and the home side poured forward to in search of the winner.
Amirul Adli then received his second yellow card for kicking the ball away, after the referee had blown for a corner instead of a goal kick, but it would have little impact on the game.
Said DPMM coach Steve Kean: "I thought we were quite comfortable (even when down to 10 men), and we did well on the break.
"If any team were to score, it looked like it would've been us.
"If we had kept 11 on the pitch, we would've got three points.
"This was two points dropped, and we've lost momentum (in the title race)."
This article was first published on July 27, 2015.
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