The Lion City Sailors have it all to do in the Singapore Cup after a 1-1 draw against the Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday (31 October) night.
Kim Shin-wook cancelled out Amirul Adli’s own goal on the stroke of half-time to earn the Sailors a share of the spoils in the second match of their Group A campaign.
It was a result that left interim Head Coach Luka Lalić fuming.
“Two points in two games, this is unacceptable. This is absolutely not good enough and I can only take responsibility for this,” the 35-year-old said.
“We are playing like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders and we need to stop doing this. We didn’t deserve anything from this game, not even a point.”
Unlike the Sailors’ thrilling 3-3 draw against Balestier Khalsa at the same venue four days ago, chances were at a premium this time around.
The first real opportunity of note came only in the 39th minute, with Shin-wook’s header off Hafiz Nor’s cross cleared off the line by Syahrul Sazali.
The former South Korean international then should have scored two minutes before the break, but contrived to miss from close range after taking down a superb ball from Maxime Lestienne.
The Sailors were made to rue those misses as Nazri Nasir’s Young Lions went ahead just before half-time.
Under pressure from Amir Syafiz, Adli’s volleyed pass back to Izwan Mahbud bounced and appeared to have taken a touch off the stranded goalkeeper’s head before bobbling into an empty net.
Luka rang the changes at the interval, bringing on Shahdan Sulaiman and Hariss Harun in a move that nearly worked a treat.
Moments after his introduction, Shahdan forced Young Lions custodian Ridhwan Fikri into a save after being teed up by Maxime.
There were further chances from the Sailors from the likes of Adli and Hariss to pull level and it all came to naught, until “Wookie” struck with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Substitute Diego Lopes cut inside his defender and masterfully squared it for the lurking 34-year-old, who took a touch before hitting a shot that Ridhwan could only parry into his own net.
There was one final chance for the Sailors to steal a late winner, but Maxime poked the ball onto the bar after Ridhwan could only parry Hafiz’s powerful shot into the path of the Belgian.
As things stand, the Sailors – who sit second with two points in as many matches – will need to beat Group A leaders Albirex Niigata (S) this Saturday (5 November) to qualify for the semi-finals.
Failure to do so will mean they have to rely on results elsewhere, with Balestier and Young Lions facing off on the same day.
Luke is acutely aware of the task that lies ahead of his team in their maiden Singapore Cup voyage.
“We have no choice but to win the game against Albirex or we will go out of the Cup,” he mused.
“We have quality in the team but at this moment, the ball is just not going in. This is the least of the issues if you look at today’s match – there were so many issues all over the field.
“But we must first stop playing like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.”