Protectors Grind Out Narrow Win Over Tigers
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Irfan Fandi’s first-half strike was enough for Home United to edge Balestier Khalsa 1-0 in the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at the Bishan Stadium on Tuesday night.
The result took the Protectors up to second spot in the standings, as they closed the gap between them and leaders Albirex Niigata (S) to a mere two points.
Home shaded the opening exchanges with the first chance of note falling to winger Faris Ramli in the 11th minute who could only fire over from 20 yards.
Three minutes later, Marijan Suto - who started ahead of the injured Stipe Plazibat - then set up Christopher van Huizen for a curling shot that went straight into the arms of Zaiful Nizam.
Suto glanced a header wide off Shamil Sharif’s freekick on 20 minutes before Shah Hirul’s audacious effort narrowly cleared the bar five minutes later.
The deadlock was however broken on 27 minutes when Irfan stabbed home the loose ball after Zaiful had inexplicably dropped a corner inside the six-yard box.
Chances were far and few between thereafter as both sides struggled to find a way past the opposing defence.
The Balestier bench were up on their feet in the 56th minute when the referee turned a deaf ear to all appeals after Aung Kyaw Naing was felled by an onrushing Hassan Sunny on the edge of the box.
Khairul Nizam saw his shot on the turn bravely blocked by Ashrul Syafeeq before Kyaw Naing flashed one wide just after the hour mark.
Nizam should have doubled Home’s lead in the 66th minute but volleyed wide from close range after doing well to control Shamil’s cross.
Van Huizen had another opportunity to do so fifteen minutes from time but his effort skimmed the bar.
Substitute Jonathan Tan nearly rescued a point for Balestier four minutes from time with a snapshot that was turned around the post. From the ensuing corner, defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi headed straight at Hassan.
With his team chasing for the elusive equaliser, Tigers goalkeeper Zaiful deserted his goal during a set piece in injury time.
And Balestier were nearly made to pay for it when Home substitute Amiruldin Asraf tried his luck from distance but his effort trickled wide of the unguarded net.
It however mattered little as the Protectors came away with three points and their fifth win of the season.
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “I wouldn’t say it was a lucky win, the players worked very hard for it. Every second, every loose ball counts.
“We have kept a clean sheet two games in a row now, especially after going two games without a clean sheet. In terms of defending, that’s definitely improvement. We can do better, passing was not up to what we are capable of. The boys have to understand every game is important and that’s a challenge in itself.”
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “The boys are working very hard. We controlled the midfield and had possession of the ball, but the final pass was not good enough.
“We are close, but not close enough. We are still struggling in the final third - our combination play is not there. While there were positives (like limiting Home to one goal), we are still missing a striker who can put the ball into the back of the net.”
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Shamil Sharif, Abdil Qaiyyim, Irfan Fandi, Sufianto Salleh (Juma’at Jantan 62’), Hariss Harun, Song Uiyoung, Christopher van Huizen, Faris Ramli, Khairul Nizam (Haziq Azman 81’), Marijan Suto (Amiruldin Asraf 71’)
: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ashrul Syafeeq, Ahmad Syahir, Shah Hirul, Huzaifah Aziz, Kyaw Zayar Win (Danial Farhan Tan 74’), Hazzuwan Halim, Aung Kyaw Naing (Jonathan Tan 81’), Hanafi Akbar (Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit 71’)