Warriors FC’s run of games without a win extended to eight after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Balestier Khalsa at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Friday evening.
The hosts had taken the lead after Jonathan Behe opened the scoring in the 18th minute, but an uncharacteristic mistake from Ismail Yunos allowed Balestier striker Miroslav Kristic to equalise in the 29th minute.
Some players are not working hard. When they lose possession, they just walk and turn away
It was a scrappy affair throughout, with both sides struggling to hold onto the ball.
The meek performance put up by the home team did not impress Warriors’ caretaker coach Razif Onn and he made it known at the post-match press conference.
“I’m very upset and I told the players about that,” he said.
“We didn’t play well in the first half. We came back in the second half and created chances. Doing that is one thing but to score a goal is another thing.
“I can see that some players are not working hard. When they lose possession, they just walk and turn away.
“When we played against Tampines Rovers, there was a lot of commitment from the players. Today is a different story. It could be fatigue, but it could be that they lost focus … when we come back for training, I will give a hard talk to them”
Just 20 seconds into the game, Balestier could have scored after Kristic played Fadhil Noh in, only for the unmarked forward to put his shot over.
Warriors then scored with their first shot of the game when Behe nodded in Zulfadli Zainal’s left-wing cross.
Yet they did not assert their authority after taking the lead; instead, they allowed Balestier to find their way back into the game 11 minutes later.
A miskick from right-back Ismail dropped for Kristic inside the area and the Croatian made no mistake by placing it beyond Yazid Yasin.
It wasn’t until the 53rd minute that the game had another highlight. An incisive Warriors breakaway resulted in Hafsyar Farkhan playing a brilliant pass to send Behe through, only for the Frenchman to shoot straight at Zaiful Nizam with only the Balestier custodian to beat.
Twelve minutes later, the Singapore international pulled off a stunning save, tipping Nikola Rak’s powerful drive onto the crossbar.
Jamil Ali was presented with a chance after Fazli Ayob and Fadhil combined well to set him up in the 75th minute, but Yazid proved equal to it.
Five minutes later at the other end, Hafiz Nor made a brilliant run to meet Ismail’s cross, only to blaze his shot way over.
By then, it was pretty clear that the game would end in a stalemate, although Zaiful had to be alert in injury time to prevent Kento Fukuda from scoring before Behe headed the resulting corner over.
Despite the result, Razif believes that the club still has a chance of finishing in the top three.
“When I look at the table, the top two is very difficult to chase,” Razif said.
“How far we can go, must depend on the opponents . If we win five matches, Home (United), Tampines (Rovers) and Albirex (Niigata win five matches, that’s it. It’s a simple equation.
“But like I said, our team won’t give up. There’s always a chance that those teams can make mistakes. To win or not to win, we will talk when the game comes.”
A draw is a good result for us. Everyone knows we are going through some difficult times
While Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic was satisfied with the result, which brought them back above the Garena Young Lions on goal difference, he felt that his charges could have done even better.
“A draw is a good result for us. Small step and we start climbing up. Everyone knows we are going through some difficult times,” Kraljevic said.
“We defended well tonight, but I think (in the) attacking third, we could have done better. A few times we could have had chances, but the killer pass was missing.
“I was confident that we could win the game, because Warriors are more or less in the same boat as us. They pushed us very high and I was hoping we could punish them for leaving lots of pace behind, but the passes were not good enough.”
The coach also praised left-back Ho Wai Loon, after he completed 90 minutes in his first senior match back since injuring his ACL last year.
“He was a really good player for us last year and it’s good to have him back,” Kraljevic stated.
“He played his first game in the Prime League only last week. Today, it was a good performance. He was struggling a bit at the end, but you have to understand it’s not easy to come back in after one year out.
“I think he did a great job.”
Photos courtesy of S.Leaguecomments