By Gabriel Tan
\While the Bulls eventually left the Jurong East Stadium empty-handed after falling to a deflected goal from Toshikazu Soya in the 52nd minute, they were valiant in defeat and came extremely close to rescuing at least a point in the final stages of the game.
A combination of the woodwork and some inspired goalkeeping from Takuma Ito was the only thing that kept Gombak at bay, with Hafiz Rahim, Julien Durand and Fairoz Hasan all excellent in the final third as the game wore on.
And despite the defeat, Balagumaran believes it is only a matter of time before his side starts firing on all cylinders.
"We did lose today [Friday] but I'm happy with our performance and the mental strength the players showed," he said after the game.
"We are building a team for the future and I see a bright one for this group and the club."
Balagumaran did lament on the timing of Albirex's strike, right as his players were making a tactical reshuffle after Adrian Dhanaraj had to be replaced due to an injury, and also claimed he was unsure if Soya had legitimately deflected the ball into the back of the net.
"The players claim the goal was handball," he added. "I couldn't see it from my angle and will have to watch the replay.
"I had to replace Adrian and shift Vicky [K. Vikraman] back to right-back but before we settled [into the new formation] they scored."
Nonetheless, the Singaporean tactician was also quick to praise Friday's opponents for their style of football and believes it is only a matter of time his players start finding the back of the net.
"I always admire Albirex," Balagumaran added. "I like the way they play - that's the philosophy I want to have with Gombak.
"We're not scoring as many goals as we would like at the moment but once we start, I think they will keep coming so I'm just staying patient."
Watch: Highlights - Albirex Niigata 1-0 Gombak United... More Videos
Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama believes his team deserved the luck they had because they had been in control for large portions of the match.
"It was a very good game," the ex-Urawa Red Diamonds defender said. "We played our style of football, controlled the game and won.
"The post came to our rescue a couple of times but it's because we had controlled the game. That's why the woodwork came to our help."
Sugiyawa was also effusive in his praise of Ito, who made a string of splendid saves as the clock ticked down.
"He [Ito] is always making splendid saves and is one of the most important players for us."
Albirex take on Laotian side Yotha FC in the opening round of the RHB Singapore Cup on May 26, while Gombak entertain Harimau Muda B next Sunday.