Stewart hails Tigers' walking wounded

Balestier Khalsa coach Darren Stewart has praised the sacrifices some of his players made in Sunday's 1-0 win over Home United in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League.

The substitute comes off the bench to score!

By Gabriel Tan

The Tigers got the second round of the campaign off to a perfect start by picking up three points against last season's runners-up thanks to a wonder goal by Zulkiffli Hassim in the 24th minute, when he raced down the right and cut inside a challenge before rifling a shot in off the far post.

Ahead of the game, there were serious injury clouds over key midfield duo Tengku Mushadad and Park Kang-jin, although both were passed fit to start, while centre-back Goran Subara played his first game since suffering multiple fractures in his wrist against Harimau Muda back in April.

And while all three put in dominant performances for Balestier, Stewart reveals the trio, as well as captain Paul Cunningham and experienced defender Jaslee Hatta, had all been far from match-fit, but were eager to play past the pain barrier for the Tigers cause.

"I have to give credit to the boys that put their hand up tonight [Sunday]," the Australian told ESPNSTAR.com after the game. "A few of them shouldn't have been out there tonight [Sunday] and some weren't even 50% fit.

"It just shows the character of the players. Goran only started training on Monday but I asked him if he was good to go and he told me he was in. Tengku and Park were also doubtful all week long."

Having suffered defeats to DPMM FC and Tanjong Pagar United in their last two league games before the mid-season break, Stewart was delighted to get back to winning ways and was pleased with his side's overall performance.

"It definitely feels good to be back winning again," he added. "It's never nice to go on a losing run and I felt we played good football in those losses, but we just couldn't get the result.

"To be honest, I thought we dominated the match, especially in the first half. In the second half, we really battled hard when Home started resorting to playing long balls.

"It only takes a minute to switch off but we kept our concentration levels up. Without a doubt, this result will be a boost to us all - the performance was just outstanding."

Home United assistant coach Baek Jong-seok was unable to hide his disappointment after the match, and admitted several of his players just did not turn up on the night.

"It was a very disappointing performance," the South Korean admitted. "We started very slowly and I have to be honest and say Balestier were the better side tonight [Sunday].

"Normally, we can afford to have two or three players play badly and still manage to get a result, but tonight [Sunday] we had five or six players who didn't live up to expectations."

Balestier have now picked up four points in their two games against Home this season and have not conceded a goal against the usually-prolific Protectors forward line, leading Baek to admit they were one of the toughest sides to break down in the competition.

"I would have to say Balestier have one of the best defences in the competition," he added. "They are well-organised and disciplined and again, we found it tough to break them down."

Home will be looking to bounce back next Friday when they take on Gombak United, while Balestier have another tricky game against defending champions Tampines Rovers.



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