Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic was happy to see his side ride out their early-season slump and eventually win their first ever Singapore Cup in their history.
The Tigers went through a six-match winless spell in the first round of the 2014 S.League season and he attributed that factor to both injuries and the initial lack of familiarity with the players. However, the 49-year-old kept believing that his side will gradually improve as the season went along.
“It was like rough seas when I just took over at the beginning of the season,” he recalled.
“I was coaching Prime League teams before this and it’s totally different from the S.League level. The boys didn’t know me and I didn’t know them yet. We had two new foreigners as well so it needed time to understand each other.”
“Also for a small club like us, getting two to three players injured is really bad. (Playmaker) Park (Kang-Jin) was out for 10 weeks and we missed his ability to spilt the defence. (Vice-captain) Jaslee (Hatta) came back and formed a good defence with (Syed) Thaha and (Nurullah) Hussein.”
Indeed, his side eventually gelled as they clinched the Cup in addition to retaining their spot amongst the top six in the league.
“We finished the season very well,” he said with a visibly satisfied look on his face.
“I felt we picked up nicely after the league draw against Brunei (DPMM) when we led them 2-0 and 3-1. From there, I was really confident that we could do this and we went to Malaysia to win 5-1 (against Harimau Muda).”
Coupled with a good Cup run, Kraljevic went into this Final bullish about their chances against Cup holders Home United as the Tigers eventually toppled the six-time winners 3-1.
“Why are Home the favourites (going into this game)?” he questioned.
“We managed to beat them 3-0 in the league, what’s the big deal about them? We had to get past eventual champions Warriors FC, Geylang (International) and Tampines (Rovers) on the road to the final; it was a bumpy road but we managed to win.”
“The boys pressured high and managed to score two goals early. Then we defended well and waited for the counter-attack to score the third goal to finish off the game – simple as that. The boys really stepped up and showed what they can do; I’m really proud of them.”
With his first season coaching a professional club ending on such a positive note, Kraljevic believes that he has the credentials to take on the Singapore National Team managerial hotseat in the future.
“In football, everyone must have goals and I have one as well,” he said.
“You think he (current National Team head coach Bernd Stange) is better? I don’t think so! I stayed in Singapore for more than 20 years, so why not?”comments