The New Paper League Cup 2017: Tigers Maul Stags To Salvage Pride
Written by: Ryan Low
Balestier Khalsa pulled off a stunning 3-0 win against Tampines Rovers at Toa Payoh Stadium on Friday night to finish third in Group B of The New Paper League Cup.
Goals from Fadli Kamis, Hazzuwan Halim and Aung Kyaw Naing helped the Tigers to end a run of 11 games without a win in all competitions in emphatic fashion.
Balestier had settled in the better of the two sides and could have scored on eight minutes when Zulkhair Mustaffa went clean through, but the makeshift forward was denied by the onrushing Tampines custodian Joey Sim.
Hazzuwan Halim then had an ambitious try from range which went straight to Sim.
The Tigers’ pressure paid off on the half-hour mark, with right-back Fadli darting in at the far post to convert Myanmarese winger Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit’s half-cleared cross.
Tampines made a double substitution just before half time to reverse their fortunes and the decision almost paid off.
Ehvin Sasidharan made an instant impact after coming on to tee up Fazrul Nawaz in the box, but the latter somehow fired wide of the left-hand post.
There was another opportunity for the Stags just before half time when Jamil Ali raced through on goal, but Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam came out well to narrow the angle.
Balestier returned for the second half with much more vigour and duly doubled their advantage in the 56th minute.
Tajeli Salamat put in a teasing right-wing cross into the box for Hazzuwan to bury beyond Sim with his first touch.
Tampines took some time to get back into the game and came back strongly in the final 20 minutes, but found Zaiful in inspired form.
The Singapore no. 3 parried Fazrul Nawaz’s goalbound header, before tipping Jamil Ali’s hooked shot onto the bar.
Those saves proved crucial as the Tigers went on to seal the victory four minutes from time.
Myanmarese substitute Kyaw Naing cut inside his marker before firing home a stunning shot from just outside the area that left Sim grasping at thin air.
The result meant Tampines finished bottom in Group B with three losses.
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: "I'm very happy obviously because it was tough losing game after game. The most important thing is that we kept a clean sheet; we've been conceding for a long time.
"We used this game to prepare ourselves for our next S.League match against Albirex Niigata (S) and changed a few players. Zulkhair did well upfront to give their defence a hard time. The players worked very hard and delivered good crosses for the first two goals."
Tampines Rovers Head Coach Jurgen Raab: "This is the weakest performance I've seen from the three group games, especially in the first half. I'm not sure what happened and I was angry at half time because there was no confidence, no initiative and we made so much mistakes.
"I expected a bit more from the seniors to guide the younger players. Second half was better but we lost the ball cheaply for the second goal. It's not a good day for us and I'm disappointed.
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh (Ashrul Syafeeq 63’), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Raihan Rahman, Huzaifah Aziz, Hazzuwan Halim, Tajeli Salamat, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit, Zulkhair Mustaffa (Aung Kyaw Naing 67’)
Tampines Rovers: Joey Sim (GK), Ismadi Mukhtar (C), Hafiz Rahim, Andi Agus, Jufri Taha, Faizal Raffi (Fazli Ayob 68’), Khairul Nizam (Ehvin Sasidharan 41’), Syed Haziq (Jamil Ali 41’), Hafiz Sujad, Irwan Shah, Fazrul Nawaz