|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By En Lim
Following his side’s 3-1 loss at the hands of Tanjong Pagar United, Balestier Khalsa coach Darren Stewart defended his players and claimed full responsibility for their failure to get a result.
“We deserved to get beaten, I didn't get [the players] up for the game [and] I take full responsibility," Stewart lamented.
"I had the full pre-season to get them ready but we weren't up for it."
The former Gombak United coach also solemnly admitted that his team were very poor in the first half.
“It looked like we were at a training game for the first 20 minutes,” he said with a look of resignation.
The Australian made no excuses as he reflected on two goalscoring opportunities by Qiu Li, both of which unfortunately hit the post.
“[The ball] didn't go in, so it didn't matter if it hit the post or the grandstand,” he said matter-of-factly.
Stewart did have good things to say about Qiu’s performance, as he commended the Singapore international for having a great game.
“He is an outstanding player, I don’t know why there is criticism about [him], he has been one of Singapore’s best players for years,” he argued.
Before ending the interview, Stewart reiterated that the blame for the loss should fall squarely on his shoulders.
“Don’t start blaming my players, because I am the one who put them [on the pitch],” he clarified.
On the contrary, Tanjong Pagar coach Patrick Vallee was all smiles after making a winning return to the S.League.
The Frenchman expressed no surprise at his team’s good performance, and was pleased with the outstanding showings from his new foreign signings.
“I am very happy,” he proclaimed. “[Monsef] Zerka and [Kamal] Ramdani both scored one goal, and they played the first half the way that I wanted.”
Vallee was also satisfied with the Jaguars’ overall team efforts and singled out Hafiz Nor, who scored a stunning third goal, for a special ‘thank you’.
The former Etoile coach had targeted a mid-table finish for Tanjong Pagar this season, and he remained cautious about their chances despite the impressive win.
“This is the first game [and] it is only one win, the season is very long,” he calmly pointed out.
The Jaguars next face Warriors FC on February 27 while Balestier will take on Geylang International one day earlier.