Selvaraj stoic after controversial derby draw

Warriors FC coach V. Selvaraj controlled his emotions well following his side's controversial 1-1 Great Eastern-YEO's S.League draw with Home United.

A battle of strength between Sufian and Camara!
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Monday's tie at the Bishan Stadium was evenly poised at 1-1 after Protectors full-back Masrezwan Masturi struck eight minutes before the break to cancel out Ruzaini Zainal's 26th-minute opener for the Warriors, when Tatsuro Inui's 25-yard drive took a deflection and sailed past Shahril Jantan and into the back of the net.

Nonetheless, the visitors' celebrations were cut short as Ahmad A'Qashah disallowed the goal, after his linesman Tang Yew Mun had adjudged that the ball had come off Warriors striker Sufian Anuar and that he had been in an offside position.

The decision led to furious protests both on and off the field, with Selvaraj angrily confronting Tang down the touchline, which continued after the final whistle.

However, Selvaraj had clearly calmed down by the time he addressed the media in his post-match press conference and was more reserved in his assessment of the decision which cost them all three points.

"I really don't know [if the goal should have stood]," he said. "It definitely took a deflection but I'm not sure whether it came off a white or red shirt - we'll have to look at the replays.

"But regardless of what it is, we have to learn to accept the referee's decision. It is final and whether it's good or bad for us, we have to accept it.

"Of course, we can argue that we were robbed of the win if that really does prove to be the case. But I think the players must take the positives from the game.

"There's no point talking and focusing on the negatives when if the damage has already been done, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Although both sides have not enjoyed the best of starts to 2013, Home have been picking up form in recent weeks and entered Monday's clash with three wins from their last four games, which was one of the reasons why Selvaraj was still content with the result.

"Overall, I still think the result can be viewed as us taking away a precious point from the Bishan Stadium," he admitted.

"We are just not scoring enough goals and winning matches at the moment. Our lack of concentration has also seen us concede at crucial moments but that definitely has improved.

"The players are showing a lot more confidence on the field and I am happy with the performance and the belief we had. They were up for the game, fighting for every ball, and it showed."

Some would however argue that Selvaraj's decision to play just one man up front backfired given the once-prolific Mislav Karoglan has only netted twice so far this season, a tally he failed to add to against Home.

As the game wore on, the Warriors boss ultimately decided to bring on Singapore internationals Erwan Gunawan and Sufian Anuar to provide different avenues to goal, but he insists he is not pertubed by Karoglan's lack of goals.

"In different games, players have to play different roles," Selvaraj explained. "Today [Monday] Kari [Karoglan] was all alone in attack.

"He had to show a lot of energy on his own and shoulder the responsibility, and we have to accept his it was going to be difficult. But I must say I'm not concerned by his goal tally.

"I still believe, if given half a chance inside the box, he will easily find the back of the net."

Like Selvaraj, Home coach Lee Lim-saeng chose not to go into too much detail regarding Warriors' disallowed goal, but maintains such decisions are part and parcel of football.

"In our game against Tampines [Rovers], there was also an incident when Indra [Sahdan Daud] was pulled down and I thought we should have been given a penalty," he said. "But we didn't get one.

"I think it's wrong for coaches to be talking about refereeing decisions. This is sport and we have to accept their call."

The ex-Korea Republic international also appeared satisfied with his side's display, and is not worrying too much about the fact they are currently 6th on the table, despite being expected to challenge for the title in pre-season.

"Both teams have good chances today [Monday] but were unable to score apart from the one goal each," Lee added. "This is part of football - it happens sometimes.

"The players tried their best and we still have many games to play, that we will need to prepare for.

"I was hoping we would not concede in the first half but we did, but we have been doing well recently like in the 4-0 win over Balestier [Khalsa]. I really respect their effort and I will fix the little problems in training."

Masrezwan getting on the score-sheet also meant the Protectors now have eight different scorers so far this season, the joint-second highest in the competition behind only leaders Tampines Rovers.

And Lee is adamant one positive that has already emerged in 2013 is that they are no longer over-reliant on a number of star players, as they were last year with the likes of Frederic Mendy, Shotaro Ihata and Qiu Li, who have all left the club.

"We are totally different from last season," he said. "Now, we play as a team and do not rely on just a few players.

"Even without [the suspended] Jordan [Webb] I think we created good chances but just could not score.

"We may not be in the top three yet but I will try my best to help us catch up. We will do much more in training."

Both teams are in action again later this week with Home travelling to Pasir Gudang to take on Harimau Muda on Saturday, while the Warriors entertain Hougang United a day later.

Image courtesy of Home United FC (Jaron Lee)

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