Kroniz Fc fell to one of their heaviest loss ever in their freindlies today, when they were beaten 0-5 by the Air Force Boys (RBAirF 1st Squadron) at Maktab Duli Soccer Field.
The result sent shock wave in the kroniz camp as they left the field licking their wounds following the defeat.
It was the first time they had lost by such a margin since as far as can be remembered in the series of friendlies, only with DPMM FC had swept them aside with a bigger margins en route to winning the Singapore Cup competition.
Kroniz were handicapped by the absence of a few influential players, some had to pull out of the playing squad with injuries and holidays, but they still boasted plenty of quality and experience in their starting eleven for this match.
But that meant nothing against a highly-motivated RBAirF side, who asserted their authority with some fair but firm play that made it hard for Kroniz to settle down.
RBAirF fired early warnings of their intent and opened the scoring for the on 19 minutes.
RBAirF winger played a diagonal ball from the left, and the flight of the delivery was perfect for their midfielder, who rushed in to beat Kroniz keeper Julaihi with a far-post screamer.
RBAirF followed up with a second goal just two minutes later, and this time it was the another forward who provided the assist.
Latching on a clever through pass from the edge of the penalty area, RBAirF striker pressed hard on kroniz defender Sulaiman before firing a left-footer beyond Julaihi to extend the advantage.
RBAirF were in full swing now, and managed to score another on the 27 minutes when RBAirF midfielder headed his lob pass to the top corner.
The Kroniz did have a chance on goal just before half-time, but a two-fisted save from RBAirF keeper deny Kroniz scoring, meant that a strong second-half performance was the only way they could overturn the three-goal deficit.
The last thing they needed was a forth strike from RBAirF that promptly arrived seven minutes into the second period.
Kroniz last man Sulaiman slipped under pressure on the surface slickened by previous rain, and RBAirF promptly made the most of it with an easy finish past an exposed Julaihi.
Kroniz’s No.1 custodian salvaged a bit of his reputation on 43 minutes when he pulled off a save to deny RBAirF striker.
But RBAirF keep up the pressure and in the corner sequence that followed, cheekily chipped the ball to the right to make it 5-0 with Julaihi stranded.
Kroniz almost made amends five minutes later with a fierce shot from the edge of the penalty area that went agonizingly wide, but on the whole, Kroniz rarely managed to trouble RBAirF.
Instead it could have been 6-0 if not for some heroic defending from Sulaiman, who twice denied RBAirF on the line five minutes from time.
Kroniz's assistance manager Pg Ariffin admitted after the match that his team was outplayed today.
“We just couldn’t settle into the normal rhythm of our game,” he told the blogger.
“They took the initiative from the start, pressed us aggressively and played a high-tempo game. There were moments when we tried to keep the ball in the defending and middle thirds, but once we got to the attacking third, they were fast and strong in their tackles.
“The other thing was that we conceded goals at crucial times in the game as well. The first two goals came very close together and it was almost like a knockout blow; we tried to come back in the second half, but the forth goal gave us a real mountain to climb.”
The 38-year-old pointed out, however, that his charges had made efforts to get back into the game, but were sucker-punched into the emphatic defeat.
“To the credit of the team, it was easy for them to put their heads down when they went three goals down,” he said.
“But they wanted to come back, and they tried to come back. My disappointment with the match is not that the players didn’t try, but that we conceded goals at crucial times, and we just didn’t have an answer to that once they smelt the blood.”
Kroniz had come into this match at Maktab Duli on a high following a good run in their friendlies, where they had managed good results recently despite missing most of their regular starters.
While fatigue was thus not an issue for players like Pg Asmali, Roslan and Awang, the flip side was their lack of match practice leading up to this crucial clash.
But Pg Ariffin refuted the suggestion that the team could have suffered from the loss due to the decision to play so many friendlies in one season more than the premier league.
“I wouldn’t think that players would lose their stamina, because age does not matter in soccer and with the attitude of 'Nada Sadarkan Diri' kroniz can beat any team,” said former national UBD tennis player.
“I think the one thing that could have played on the players’ minds – and even then I doubt it – was the fact that tomorrow is Hari Raya Aidil Adha and most of the players are already on raya moods."
The pressure to deliver is significant at a club whose last taste of success was beating Wasabi FC, and despite his placid exterior and without Kroniz manager Bab, Pg Ariffin Kroniz Assistance manager stressed that he remained focused on that task as he challenged the players to bounce back on the the next game.
“Anger is there in everyone, and I have been an angry man at times before,” he remarked.
“But it has been my philosophy that you always have to look at what to do next, how to resolve a situation to make it better. And we have a situation, because we had a very outstanding start to the season this year, and lately has not been as good.
“We’ve got the players; I was overflowing with excitement during the many friendlies, when I was speaking about the squad we have. A defeat like this will not change that view so drastically, but the challenge is to see how the boys respond for the rest of the season.”