Jurgen Raab walked into the press conference room with a wry smile on his face, but shrugged his shoulders before he addressed the media.
His Tampines Rovers team looked sluggish, devoid of ideas, even disinterested at Our Tampines Hub last night, limping to a 1-0 win over a disciplined Balestier Khalsa side in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
It came as no surprise to anyone watching that Balestier lined up to defend resolutely and counter-attacked with direct balls, but the Stags coach was befuddled by his charges' apparent apathy.
"It was a difficult match and, for long periods, they played with eight men not further than 30m from their own goal. But honestly, I must think back to a long time ago to find a similar game that we played so weakly," Raab said .
The normally effective Ryutaro Megumi laboured with little effect on the right, while Jordan Webb - often penetrative and deadly in the box - was anonymous for most of the match. Indeed, it was not until the 34th minute that either team registered a shot on goal.
Tampines broke the deadlock in the 49th minute when 18-year-old Irfan Najeeb headed in a Safirul Sulaiman cross at the far post - one of the few occasions the Balestier defence lost concentration.
SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Tampines Rovers 1
Balestier Khalsa 0
Hougang United 3 Home United 3
Warriors FC 2 Brunei DPMM 2
"Tampines are too strong on both flanks and, if you give them - Webb and Megumi - too much space, they will kill you. That's why I couldn't open up too much to play, even after we went a goal down," said Tigers coach Marko Kraljevic. "But I am very satisfied with the performance of the boys. They gave a good fight, and that's all we can do. I'm happy."
Balestier had one clear chance to score when Hazzuwan Halim was clean through on goal following Tampines' failed offside trap but the 24-year-old blazed his shot over the bar.
"That was the turning point of the game, not (striker Keegan) Linderboom's injury," said Kraljevic of the New Zealander who was withdrawn at half-time due to an ankle injury.
The win sees Tampines join Balestier on 10 points, but the Stags hold second spot with a better goal difference.
Defending champions Albirex Niigata lead the standings with a perfect 15 points from five games.
"I'm happy that we got the goal and did what was necessary to win the game - that is always our first job," said Raab.
"But, honestly, this was not a good match for us, and I will speak to the players tomorrow. I must find out why it was like this."