AFC Cup: "Strike early," says Lee Lim Saeng

Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng has set his team the target of going all the way in the AFC Cup.

Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng's message to his charges ahead of Tuesday afternoon's AFC Cup Group E match away at Maldivian side New Radiant is simple - strike early.

The former South Korean international told The New Paper that an early goal would go a long way to helping them claim the win they are looking for as they begin their continental adventure this season.

But, he warned that his side would have to "play smart".

Because the floodlights at the National Stadium in Male do not meet the competition's requirements, the game will kick off at 4pm.

Speaking to TNP on Monday, Lee said: "The players are not used to this match weather, because S.League players usually train between 5pm and 7pm to play night games, but we must overcome this.

"I hope we score early. If we can do that, we can control the match.

"We need to play smart in this game."

Home are reeling from a 1-0 defeat by champions Tampines Rovers in the S.League opener last Friday.

Although the Protectors were arguably the better side on the day, a lapse in concentration in defence allowed the Stags to score the only goal of the game.

How Home played on Tuesday provides a clue as to how badly the side have been affected psychologically by the recent loss.

Asked if his side could bounce back against the Maldivian league and cup double winners, he said: "Of course we can.

"For me and the team, it's most important to keep to our style of play."

Lee was surprisingly bullish, stating that his team's target was to go all the way in the competition, despite the fact no Singapore side have managed to go further than the quarter-finals since 2009.

Home and Warriors FC (then known as SAFFC) both made the last eight five years ago.

The best performance by S.League teams in the AFC Cup was in 2004, when both Home and Geylang International reached the semi-finals, only to be defeated by Syrian opposition.

This will be Lee's second season in the AFC Cup as Home coach, and he said: "When I said our target was to be (AFC Cup) champions in 2012, many people laughed.

"But my aim does not change. I always aim to achieve the highest.

"I believe we can, as long as we put in the effort. In the past, nobody knew about South Korea (football) too before (Dutch coach) Guus Hiddink took over.

"But he instilled the belief in the players and it led to a very good showing at the 2002 World Cup."

msazali@sph.com.sg


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