Plazibat Double Sinks Tigers
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Stipe Plazibat struck a first-half brace to help Home United down Balestier Khalsa 2-0 in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
The result kept the Protectors’ faint title hopes alive as they moved within a point of second-placed Tampines Rovers and closed the gap between them and leaders Albirex Niigata (S) to ten points with a game in hand over the latter.
Deploying a back five from the start, the Balestier defence did a decent job in stifling the Home front two of Adam Swandi and Plazibat although both sides hardly threatened in the opening exchanges.
Christopher van Huizen’s freekick flew straight at Zaiful in the eighth minute before Raihan Rahman fired a speculative effort that went wide five minutes later.
But Plazibat would break Balestier’s resistance as he turned home Shamil Sharif’s low cross from close range to put the Protectors in front after 24 minutes.
The Croatian forward would go on to add his second goal of the night just two minutes later.
After the Balestier defence failed to deal with Van Huizen’s left-wing delivery, Plazibat was on hand to fire past Zaiful Nizam from inside the six-yard box for his 35th goal in all competitions.
The remainder of the half petered out with Home taking a two-goal lead into the break.
With Balestier chasing the game, head coach Marko Kraljevic reacted by bringing on Fariz Faizal for Shah Hirul on 53 minutes and it was a move that nearly paid off.
The 21-year-old set up Aung Kyaw Naing for a shot but the Myanmarese fired well over from outside the box.
Plazibat could have gotten his hat-trick on the hour mark after pouncing on an error by Hanafi Salleh but he was denied by Zaiful at point-blank.
The designated visitors could have pulled one back with 14 minutes remaining when they went on a counter but Kyaw Naing was denied by Hassan Sunny in a one-on-one situation.
Kyaw Naing then had another scoring opportunity in the 83rd minute but his shot on the turn inside the box was smothered comfortably by Hassan.
Home substitute Amiruldin Asraf fired straight at Zaiful deep into stoppage time but it mattered little as they hung on for their 13th win of the season.
For Balestier meanwhile, they slumped to their 14th defeat of the season to remain in seventh with 16 points from 22 matches.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “The most important thing tonight was that we got the three points to bring us closer to Albirex. Even though Albirex beat Hougang yesterday, anything can happen in football and we will not give up on the title.
“Looking at the schedule, I had to rest a number of my key players like Faris (Ramli) and Juma’at (Jantan) today. We have another tough game against Tampines on Monday before we play Warriors three days later.”
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “We were playing against Home, a team fighting for the title and it is always going to be tough. I was proud of my boys and I was happy with the performance, but not the result.
“The first half was poor but the second half was much better.The game could have been different had we put away our chances. We could also have done better defensively but that’s football, we move on and learn from this.”
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Aqhari Abdullah, Abdil Qaiyyim, Hariss Harun (Amiruldin Asraf 68’), Sufianto Salleh, Shamil Sharif, Haziq Azman, M. Anumanthan, Christopher van Huizen (Iqram Rifqi 78’), Adam Swandi, Stipe Plazibat (Marijan Suto 78’) Balestier Khalsa:
Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ashrul Syafeeq, Ahmad Syahir (Rafiqin Kamal 73’), Tajeli Salamat, Shah Hirul (Fariz Faizal 53’), Raihan Rahman, Aung Kyaw Naing, Hazzuwan Halim