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[AFC Cup] Gutted Defeat incurred by Gallant Balestier in Maiden Continental Home Game

Disbelief for Balestier for the late goal conceded 
Even after they were gutted by a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat against defending MSL champions Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) in last evening's AFC Cup Group F encounter, Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic is pleased with the performance put up by his team.

After all, the Johoreans were a much superior side that boast the likes of Malaysian internationals Safee Sali, Amri Yahyah and etc. on their payroll, but it was the show of sheer character with fighting spirit of the unheralded Singaporean side that won the hearts of those who watched them lost the game in dying moments in the encounter.

Jonathan Xu (13) is playing his second AFC Cup tournament
Poh Yifeng (center) ready to strike an attempt
With the clock ticking away in seconds after the fourth official indicated four minutes of injury time, a lapse in concentration in the back of Balestier wall allowed a slip in that was latched on perfectly by Asraruddin Putra Omar to stab home from close range to seal the game and remained unbeaten in the competition.

It would be the one of the two goals scored in the evening, should the earlier attempt by Amri in 86th minute was not ruled offside. However, the overall display by the team from the north side of the Causeway could only be described as average given the recent spate of injuries facing by their Croatian coach Bojan Hodak that saw him having to stretch his resources of late.

Other than that, it was also the well-drilled tactics by Coach Kraljevic that successfully kept the Harimau Selatan at the bay with swift closing down of play that denied to the Johoreans from gaining any advantage and with late strike in the 92nd minute of play had once cemented the term "Football is a CRUEL game".

"Iggy" Ang (14) gave himself a good account
Miroslav Kristic (11) edged out in an aerial duel
Zaiful Nizam (19) fisted away a danger for Balestier
Described by his former teammate at Balestier Central back in 1997 that the Tigers had deployed "parking the bus" tactic for over reliance on defending, Coach Kraljevic said:"Yes, I parked the bus but I didn't see any bus!"

"I thought we defended well in the game and you cannot just take anything from the English papers and put it as a question to me,

"We have done what we supposed to do and if we were lucky, we should have scored the first goal of the night but I think we did a great job and I am proud of my team." said the 50-year-old Croatian tactician after the match.

JDT fans made their presence felt
JDT coach Bojan Hodak speaking to the media
In the meantime, Coach Hodak suggested his depleted side were too slow in this narrow victory on the artificial turf that was earlier suggested they would have difficulties adapt to it despite the fact that they have not lost a game there since 2012 when Lions XII first entered the Malaysia Super League (MSL).

Said the former Jurong FC defender:"The way we played tonight is too slow and we are not sharp in the final third, we are also having a number of players came back after the injury and with Balestier parking the bus in front of their goal, it's not easy for them to concede a goal."


  1. Poh Yifeng was good in this match. The team played compactly and cleverly for 93 minutes. Too bad about the goal in the 94th minute but the players will learn from it, I hope.

    The team has improved since the 3-0 loss to Kitchee just a month ago. Step by step towards greater improvement.


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