Star Man – Miroslav Kristic, Balestier Khalsa

Balestier stunned many in 2015 with their surprise S.League title charge and one of the key reasons why they did so well was the performances of Kristic.

He had big shoes to fill as he came in for his impressive compatriot Goran Ljubojevic, who hit 20 goals for the Tigers the season before.

We want to be challenging for the title again and there is no reason why we can’t do so

However, the Croatian exceeded expectations by hitting 23 goals in all competitions, helping his side to a fourth-place league finish and a spot in the League Cup final.

“It wasn’t easy to replace a player like Goran,” he told FourFourTwo. “But coach Marko (Kraljevic) prepared us very well for every game and brought the best out of each player.

“Thus the morale within the team was very high and that helped me to excel. I have to thank all of them because all of them are responsible for my goals.”

The successful season naturally meant a number of Balestier players attracted interest from other clubs.

Centre-back Igor Cerina sealed a move to Malaysia Premier League side Sabah FA, while the duo of Poh Yi Feng and Ignatius Ang jumped ship to the most successful S.League club side, Warriors FC.

Despite the departure of these key players, Kristic is optimistic that the revamped Tigers can repeat last season’s exploits.

“It’s not easy to replace players like Igor and ‘Iggy’ (Ang),” he admitted. “But then again, we have strengthened our squad as well with new players like Syafiq (Zainal), Fazli (Ayob) and Jamil (Ali).

“So overall I think you can say we’re better than last season.”

Along with the return of Serbia defender Emir Lotinac, both Kristic and Robert Pericic are staying for another year in further moves that will please the Tigers’ faithful.

The all-Croatian strike partnership was a resounding success in 2015 with 33 goals between them, something that Kristic is looking forward to again.

“It’s a delight for me to be able to work with Robbie (Pericic) again,” said the 25-year-old. “We have a good understanding together and that can only be good for the team.

“Also he’s a very humble guy and always give 100 per cent during matches. (He’s) a really good team player.”

While teams like Tampines Rovers and Home United have been touted as the early title favourites, the ambitious Kristic is not giving up on his dream of winning the S.League crown just yet.

“In football, anything is possible,” he said defiantly. “This year’s league is very interesting with many players returning from the LionsXII.

“But definitely we want to be challenging for the title again and there is no reason why we can’t do so.”

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Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo