News • March 8, 2016

Kraljevic Believes Kitchee Are Ripe For The Taking


Written by: Shawn Lim

After a positive draw in their first away game in the 2016 AFC Cup, Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic believes that his side are primed for their first victory in the continental cup competition.

The Tigers were the more dominant side in their first Group F encounter with New Radiant in Maldives and had taken the lead through Fadhil Noh, before Izzath Abdul Bari equalised for the hosts.

Zulkiffli Hassim then gave the visitors the lead again before Rilwan Waheed pulled the visitors level again in stoppage time to ensure that both sides shared the spoils.

As his side prepares to take on Kitchee SC at Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow night, Kraljevic is confident that the Tigers can get a good result against the Group F leaders to increase their chances of qualifying for the next round.

“It was a good result for us in Maldives. We should have won and we were unlucky to concede a last minute goal to only gain a point,” said the Croatian.

“I have seen Kitchee played the last few years and they are always on the top because they play good soccer..playing against them..for us, it is a very important game.

“If we want to improve from last year and get into the second round, we need to win our home games then we will have a chance.”

While the Tigers failed to win both of their meetings against the Hong Kong side last year when they met in the AFC Cup, Kraljevic is adamant that the circumstances this round is different.

The Mongkok-based club were left without a coach after Abraham Garcia suddenly stepped down two days ago, with first-team responsibilities now thrusted into the hands of caretaker coach Alex Chu.

Add on to the fact that Kitchee have played three games in the past 10 days before arriving in Singapore, it is no wonder that Kraljevic believes the Hong Kong side are ripe for the taking.

“They are very confident with the ball and they pass it very well,” said the 51-year-old.

“However, they were playing three games in 10 days and coming here to play on an artificial pitch, it will require a lot of energy and the players will need to be fully fit to last the 90 minutes.

“This is our chance and we must go all out to show how strong we are. It will be very tough for us because of how Kitchee play, but if you believe, anything is possible.”

Meanwhile, Chu is aware that Balestier have adopted a defensive approach this season as they have injuries to a number of key players, he is wary of adopting an all-out attack strategy.

“We have really no information on them as the S.League just started recently. I watched the YouTube of their matches two weeks ago, but that’s all we have,” Chu said.

“They have young players and they are dangerous, so we will have to be patient and look for openings even though we are going to attack them from the start.”

Chu, who is also Kitchee’s Director of Football, revealed that his side are looking forward to playing in Singapore’s warmer temperature as it is currently the winter season in Hong Kong.

Said the Hong Konger, jokingly: “We are actually enjoying playing in this weather, because it is super cold in Hong Kong right now!”