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S.League

  • May 9, 2014
  • • 19:30
  • • Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
  • Referee: A. A'Qashah
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No joy for Balestier against clinical Hougang

No joy for Balestier against clinical Hougang

FAS

The Korean star came on as a substitute after a prolonged spell out with injury, but the Tigers paid for wasting their chances as the Cheetahs came away with the three points

Balestier Khalsa welcomed the return of star man Park Kang Jin on Friday night, but he failed to spark them to victory as they went down 2-1 to Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Korean playmaker has completed the full 90 minutes for only their first and third games of the campaign, missing the rest through injury. The lengthy absence coincided with a six-game winless streak that ended with victory over Harimau Muda last Wednesday.

Balestier attempted to build on that by bringing on Park midway through the second half at 1-1 and he nearly made a goalscoring impact within five minutes, poking a shot agonisingly wide of the far post. While the Cheetahs grabbed a winner soon after, the substitute did make an instant improvement to Balestier's offensive play despite clearly not being match-fit.

Coach Marko Kraljevic revealed after the game that the 25-year-old had only trained for one week, stating that he needed more time to regain his form. The German-Croat then reiterated Park's importance, as he has done so often before, likening him to another Premier League star after comparing him to Liverpool's Coutinho last week.

"Arsenal, they didn't win the championship because of Ozil [although] they have many other world-class players," he pointed out, referring to the German star's injury problems during the Gunners' title run-in.

Balestier will certainly hope for Park to be back at his best soon as they are set to lose another star in skipper Paul Cunningham. The key centre-back confirmed to Goal Singapore that he will be undergoing surgery for a knee problem next week, which will rule him out for three months, having played through the injury so far.

In truth, the Tigers created enough chances to win the game even without Park. Kim Min-ho struck the bar when the game was still goal-less, while Goran Ljubojevic was denied by Fadhil Salim's superb block after waltzing through the Hougang defence early in the second half.

Geison Moura made them pay on the hour mark, sidefooting home a fine first-time finish off Fairoz Hasan's low cross. That proved to be the decider after Ljubojevic's penalty had cancelled out Diego Gama's corner, which had curled straight into goal for the opener.

Ruhaizad Ismail's excellent dipping strike went narrowly over the bar late on as Hougang clung on for a clinical win, despite Balestier having the better of the second half. It was a victory that pleased Amin Nasir, who saw his team fall to a shock loss against the Courts Young Lions last week.

"It very crucial for us to win tonight, the boys needed to bounce back and today's game was very important for their morale," he said. "I am glad they responded tonight."

The former Singapore international also expressed satisfaction at his team's performances after the first round of matches, stating that they were "comfortable" with wearing the underdogs tag and would continue working hard.

"It won't be right for me to say we going for a top-three finish; we managed to be at the sixth position [currently] and we will try to maintain it," he stated.

Kraljevic was left to rue one lapse in concentration for yet another defeat in a disappointing campaign so far, but hopes his side can improve in the remaining matches.

"Of course it’s disappointing," he admitted. "It’s just some individual mistake and then we conceded a goal. You miss [chances], then you concede, this is football.

"I think we can do better, I really do."

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