S.League: Balestier's Ho Wai Loon ready for Albirex rematch
Just 13 days after Albirex Niigata (S) overcame Balestier Khalsa 2-1 to lift the 2015 TNP League Cup, both sides will lock horns again in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League at the Jurong East Stadium on Thursday night.
Balestier were poised to collect their second trophy in two years after Miroslav Kristic put them in front early on in the Cup final but their Japanese counterparts rallied back with two goals in the last 15 minutes to send the Tigers to their knees.
Balestier left-back Ho Wai Loon admitted his side are still reeling from the crushing manner of that defeat but is keen to channel his thoughts back to the league where they are sitting comfortably in fourth place, with 14 points from 10 games.
"I actually still can't believe that we lost in the final," he told ESPN FC. "It's definitely very disappointing to lose out in a cup final by two late goals as we knew we didn't really perform below-par, in fact we were playing better then how we usually do.
"However now it's all over so we have to accept the fact, move on and look forward to the next game which is against Albirex again."
After this game, the Tigers will have to navigate through another four S.League games before taking on Albirex again in a two-legged RHB Singapore Cup quarterfinal clash in mid-August.
Ho believes this is the perfect opportunity to size up their opponents again before they embark on their Cup defence next month.
"It looks like we're going to play against them quite a few times this season," he mused. "We have to take it positively because the more we play against them, we will have a better understanding of them. This can only help us in the upcoming Singapore Cup."
Marko Kraljevic's side will obviously be out to avenge the Cup final loss, but the task will not come easy against a well-drilled Albirex outfit. The White Swans have conceded just eight goals in 12 lague matches and are currently just a point behind leaders Warriors FC.
The Tigers' chances will be further dented by the absence of top scorer Kristic, who misses out due to suspension. However Ho believes his side can put up a gritty performance to get a result away from Jurong East.
"We're missing Kristic, but there's still (Robert) Pericic upfront and other attackers like Fadhil (Noh) and Zulkiffli (Hassim)," said the 21-year-old who represented the national U23s at the recent SEA Games.
"I have confidence in my team that we can continue to keep up our good performances in the league. We just need to take our chances and be disciplined at the back, since Albirex is fast and can keep the ball well."
Albirex Niigata (S) Probable Lineup: Yosuke Nozawa (GK, C), Mikiya Yamada, Kento Fujihara, Takahiro Saito, Itsuki Yamada, Shun Inaba, Hikaru Mizano, Fumiya Kogure, Rui Kumada, Atsushi Kawata, Rion Taki
Balestier Khalsa Probable Lineup: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Ahmad Syahir, Igor Cerina, Emir Lotinac, Ho Wai Loon, Fadhil Noh, Poh Yifeng, Jonathan Xu, Tarik Cmajcanin, Zulkiffli Hassim, Robert Pericic