Speaking after his side's 1-0 home win over Albirex, Balestier coach Darren Stewart targeted a top-five finish in the league, despite suspension and injury problems.Having watched his side grind out a hard-fought victory over Albirex Niigata, especially after having to play with ten men for two-thirds of the match, Balestier coach Darren Stewart was at a loss for words to describe his team’s performance.
“I don’t need to comment, do I really; what is there to say? The performance said it all. We were confident we could get something out of the game, as long as they [the players] kept their discipline and shape,” he enthused.
Stewart admitted that their initial plans to press their opponents had to be altered after winger Zulkiffli Hassim was sent off, resulting in them having to sit back deeper, but he maintained that they tried to stay optimistic.
“We were very positive,” he said.
The Australian coach also revealed that they were “down to the minimum numbers” for Thursday’s league game against SAF FC due to suspensions and injuries, which might see him using players from the Prime League.
“Kevin’s [Wee, Balestier assistant coach] Prime League [team] are top of the league, so I’ll be pinching a few of these boys and hopefully they can be up to the task.”
Seeking to end the season on a high with a finish in the top five of the league, Stewart expressed hope that the Tigers would be able to keep up their good form.
“Now we are trying to finish above Home [United], we are trying to chase them.”
Meanwhile, having seen his side succumb to what could prove to be a crucial defeat in the title race, Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama refused to panic, preferring to take defeat on the chin.
“Against ten players, we couldn’t play our football. We gave them a goal from a set-play, which is their strong point. We have to accept this result.”
He pointed to the “very good” Balestier defence as the main reason for his team’s first loss since April, while also insisting that he only had eyes for the next game, brushing off any discussion about the White Swans’ title chances.
“As I am always saying, I am only thinking about the next game against Gombak United. So, I just focus on winning the next game.”