The head coaches of both teams in tonight’s RHB Singapore Cup first-round tie could not be any more different.
While the term soft-spoken and its accompanying similes could be used to describe the well-liked South Korean, the Croatian coach of DPMM has earned a reputation as someone who adopts a no-holds-barred approach and who does not mince his words.
This reputation was further affirmed as he took a sly dig at referee Sukhbir Singh as he felt that certain key refereeing decisions went against his team.
When quizzed on the performance of Lionel Lewis and especially his miraculous one-handed save from a point blank Ivan Jerkovic’s bicycle kick, the former NK Zagreb goalkeeper replied: “Before the game, I said that Lionel Lewis was the best goalkeeper in the country and tonight he showed that.”
However, rather than stopping there, he entertained the journalists by adding on with his own dose of wordplay wit.
“Lewis protected the team and tonight, the Protectors should thank Lewis, God and somebody else who protected them,” remarked Simunic.
When asked who he was specifically referring to, he replied: “I will not tell you who it is. You are free to think for yourself who I am referring to.”
This thinly-veiled criticism of the referee may not sit too well with the authorities but one cannot deny that the colourful Croat’s character has helped to add a bit of colour to post-match interviews which can often be a mundane affair. In fairness, rather than just criticising the referee, coach Simunic took time to praise the effort of his players.
He added: “I think my players played well, they created a lot of chances and because of that, I am a happy man tonight.”
When quizzed on his plans now that his team has been eliminated from the RHB Singapore Cup, he replied: “We will focus on winning the league. From now on, every team would want to beat DPMM and every game will be as intense as tonight.”
Meanwhile, for Home United’s Lee Lim Saeng, the victory came as a relief for the defending champions who were without four suspended key players.
“Tonight was very hard as we were without our four important players [Shi] Jia Yi, Shotaro Ihata, Frederic Mendy, Franklin [Anzite]. They will be back for the next round against SAFFC so we will prepare for the game with confidence,” came the verdict from the South Korean.
Despite underlining the importance of these suspended players for the next round, he was quick to praise his players for tonight’s performance. He commented: “My players did well tonight and especially my defence. We did not concede against the league’s best attack and that is something I am really happy about.”
Similarly to Simunic, coach Lee found time to criticise the referee.
“I don’t think that should be a red card. He was caught in a tangle [with Shahrazen Said] and he just wanted to free himself," he said of Masrezwan Masturi's sending-off.
"It is a disappointing decision.”