By Noah TanFollow @@Noah_Tan
By FOX SPORTS Staff
Prior to the Young Lions' Great Eastern-YEO's S.League clash with the Tigers on Wednesday, Aide's men had not won a single point and sat at the foot of the table after losing their opening three games.
The Young Lions finally got themselves on the board as they eked out a credible 1-1 draw with Balestier at the Toa Payoh Stadium; the away side took the lead against the run of play in the 36th minute when forward Sherif El-Masri scored a well-taken penalty after Shamil Sharif was fouled in the box, but the Tigers eventually equalised through Qiu Li's thumping header nine minutes from time.
Despite seeing his side being outplayed by the Tigers for majority of the game, Aide was buoyed by the spirit shown by his young charges and tipped them to improve as the season progresses.
"I have to applaud my team for getting this precious point," Aide said.
"It's never easy playing Balestier at the Toa Payoh Stadium and to get points off them is an achievement.
"Darren has done a good job with Balestier. They're a physical side but I thought my boys did much better as compared to their last game against DPMM [FC].
"I'm pleased with the way my team competed; a lot of these players have not played regular football in the S.League, and some players are even playing for the first time.
"The boys will learn that we need to stay focused at the back at all times, and if we can keep clean sheets against teams like Balestier, then we can say that we have done a good job.
"It's not going to be easy, but I'm sure they will get better with more games under their belt.
"Hopefully we can build on this good display in the following games."
Aide's good cheer was shared by Balestier coach Darren Stewart, who lauded his team for a good overall performance and refuted suggestions that his side sold themselves short by failing to pick up all three points against the inexperienced Young Lions.
"I'm not upset at failing to take three points," the Australian declared.
"As long as my team plays well, I'm never disappointed.
"In the first half, we were a bit slow to come out of the blocks, but I could not fault the effort we put in, and I was pleased with the amount chances we created.
"The Young Lions were brilliant against DPMM despite having lost that game and we knew they would give us stern test tonight [Wednesday]."
Referee Mohd Irwan Samsuddin's decision to award the Young Lions the penalty which led to their goal was vehemently protested by the Balestier players who felt that contact was made outside the box, but Stewart admitted he thought the officials had got their decision spot on.
"It was a penalty no doubt about it," the 46-year-old said.
"I'm not going to blame my player, the ball was bouncing awkwardly and it was a tricky situation.
"We complained a little too much, and I told my boys during the break not to remonstrate with the referee.
"If it was a penalty, and you know that it is, then just get on with the game."
Stewart also reserved special praise for Qiu, who, apart from his goal, was a lively threat up front throughout the game.
"Qiu was outstanding tonight [Wednesday]," he added.
"He has probably been our best player all year, and that's what we brought him in for."
Balestier take on champions Tampines Rovers in their next S.League fixture, while the Young Lions will hope to get their first win of the season when they host high-flying Albirex Niigata (S).