By Teng Kiat
Very, very bad. Absolutely horrendous. Destroyed.
That was how the head coaches of both Harimau Muda and Balestier Khalsa described the condition of the football pitch at Yishun Stadium on Sunday night, after witnessing their players battle it out on a horribly cut-up pitch which was muddied up in large portions.
"First of all, the condition of the pitch before the match was very, very bad. And I don’t know what happened with the pitch yesterday - when we came, it’s as if somebody had used the pitch and destroyed everything," said Ong.
"And I believe it’s because of this that both teams looked very slow in the first half, even [in the] second half, until we got the first goal."
Stewart concurred with his Malaysian counterpart, saying: "It was a good game on an absolutely horrendous football field. And if someone doesn’t take responsibility for the field, I don’t know what we can do. "
Concerns about the playing surface aside, both coaches also believed that their players did well in the match, which Harimau Muda won 2-0.
"Of course it’s a good win, but it’s a very hard fought win," proclaimed Ong.
"Definitely we changed a little bit of [our] style [of play] today, where we were being more patient; we can’t play a very fast game in this kind of condition.
"So as long as the boys moved well in the second half, then I believe that we could score [and we did], so I think the boys did well."
Stewart was equally happy with his side's showing despite the loss, describing the performance as "magnificent".
"We didn’t deserve that mate; I don’t think we deserved to lose the game to be fair," said the Australian.
"The boys played superbly against a quality team who have an outstanding coach, and I thought we matched them up until that fluke goal.
"Then we just threw bodies forward to try to get something out of it [the match], and they caught us on the counter."
Although the Young Tigers are still mathematically in the running for the title, Tampines are the huge favorites at the moment and Ong believes that the lack of pressure has had a positive effect on his charges.
"You see, today there’s no pressure on the players. You don’t talk about winning the championship and today, they performed very well," opined Ong.
"When...you know you still have titles to go for, they [the players] will be more tense, they will be more pressured, because you know these are boys; they are not mature players."
Meanwhile, with their next match being three weeks from now, Stewart revealed that his side would be taking a "bit of a holiday" next week to recharge before "giving it everything we've got" in their last two games of the season.