Vjeran Simunic (pic) admitted his last game in charge of DPMM FC has left him with a bad taste in his mouth - as 90th minute equalisers in season enders are apt to do.
DPMM FC closed out their third Singapore League season with a 2-2 draw against Geylang International FC last night, the result settled when a scramble in the box saw Geylang's Stefan Milojevic send in a shot that went into goal after hitting Tales Ricarte dos Santos' leg - capping off a period of sustained pressure from the hosts.
Geylang, who have now picked up their first points off DPMM FC in seven attempts, had goalkeeper Takuma Ito to thank for his heroics in the last S-League game of the season as the Japanese helped his team keep out two attempts each from Shahrazen Said and Azwan Ali Rahman in a 10-minute span in the second-half that should have earned the hosts all three points.
"This was my last game and it's a very, very bitter way to go out," said Simunic, who sat alone on a bench as the rain started pouring down at an emptying Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
"Football has shown its cruel face. Sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is cruel.
"I think even the Geylang players feel sorry for us.
"I really pity our players and supporters because this was the last game (and) they didn't deserve to end the season like this," he noted.
Most of the DPMM FC players rushed off to the tunnel after the result, perhaps frustrated with how the game had ended and the fact that the nearly 30,000 capacity stadium saw a poor turnout in the club's season finale.
Santos lingered a while longer, but after approaching Simunic to apologise for his part in the goal, was quickly waved off - and rightly so.
"I can't blame him for the goal," he said after the last-minute goal-mouth melee.
"In football if you don't score, you will be punished. We had chances to make it 3-1 when it was 2-1. 3-0 and 4-0 when it was 2-0.
"We were under pressure to win this game and I was sure we could.
"I guess the players are still not experienced enough to hold out for a result. They play to enjoy football, not for the result.
"Ito was great, man of the match! He had some fantastic saves," he said when asked about the Geylang goalkeeper.
His own first-choice glovesman Wardun Yussof was suspended, as was veteran defender Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit - an effective organiser and communicator on the pitch - and last night's match was the first time Simunic started a tie without the duo.
"It would have been different if they played. Absolutely!," said the Croatian.
"But we've lost a lot of players and made a new team this season so I think it (eighth) is a good result.
"I can't blame any of my players - they all did their best," he added.
For V Kanan, there was no denying that last night's result is one the Geylang coach won't soon forget.
And like Simunic, he was quick to praise Ito for producing the goods when it mattered the most.
"I think Ito played extremely well and pulled off some impossible saves," said Kanan.
"We played very well in the second half... DPMM FC had their chances but we defended well.
"Many of the players are leaving the club next season and I'm proud of them for not pulling any punches and going all out."