League Cup • July 12, 2014
Balestier’s Progression Hinges on Cheetahs’ Favour
Written By: Kenneth Ho
Balestier Khalsa are on the verge of elimination from the StarHub League Cup 2014 after a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Brunei DPMM at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.
Despite going a goal down twice, the Tigers were able to mount a comeback each time with Goran Ljubojevic grabbing a brace for them to earn a draw.
However this may not prove enough as Balestier have only one point from two games in Group D, and they will need a huge favour from Hougang to beat DPMM by at least four goals to have any hopes of progressing into the quarter finals.
Rodrigo Tosi and Roy O’Donovan both scored a goal each in this game, but those only came in the second half. However, the two were not without their chances in the first half.
Roy O’Donovan came close in the 21st minute as he directed an effort towards the far corner wide before his striking partner headed a Joe Gamble cross over just five minutes later.
The bombardment continued with Tosi latching onto Roberto Alviz’s chest-down before he rifled in a shot that just swerved away from the top corner, and there was a sense that the deadlock would be broken before the end of the half.
It nearly proved so in the 34th minute when O’Donovan ran onto a through pass by Rosmin Kamis and found himself with only Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam to beat. However Zaiful pulled pulled off a sublime save with his foot to deny DPMM the opener.
Tosi then produced a moment of brilliance as he swivelled and let fly a ferocious effort despite receiving a pass with his back facing the goal in the 39th minute, however the Balestier goalkeeper was there again to make the save.
DPMM would come close once again just before the half ended, as Azwan Ali just failed to get a touch on O’Donovan’s cross which zipped past the face of goal.
Credit to Balestier, they showed up for the second half as the tempo rose and both sides had numerous chances to score.
While Zaiful denied O’Donovan in yet another one-on-one situation in the 53rd minute, the custodian was powerless to prevent Tosi from opening the accounts four minutes later.
After Emir Lotinac got penalised for a handball in the box, Tosi went up to take the spot-kick. Despite Zaiful diving to the correct side, he was a tad too slow to match Tosi’s effort.
Balestier immediately went about trying to respond, and they should have done so just after the hour mark. Kim Minho was the creator as he put in a cross to the far post and while substitute Ahmad Syahir did get to the ball, he was unable to steer it towards goal.
However, Ljubojevic then levelled matters in the 68th minute as he rammed home from close range after meeting Syed Thaha’s cross.
While stung by the equaliser, DPMM were not rattled and nearly went ahead again three minutes later as Tosi towered above Zaiful to send a header towards goal. However his aim was off as the ball went wide.
Park Kang Jin then gave DPMM a scare after he volleyed one onto the post in the 74th minute before the hosts took back the lead again.
O’Donovan was the scorer after he was left alone to side-foot Joe Gamble’s cross from the right past Zaiful after Poh Yifeng missed his header to clear the ball in the 78th minute.
However, the lead only lasted for a mere five minutes as Ljubojevic struck once again after he tapped in a rebound from DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof.
DPMM had a chance to take the lead for the third time in this game, but Tosi saw his header coming off the bar five minutes from time.
Both sides then wasted chances by blasting over from close range before the referee eventually called on time.
Balestier’s fate are no longer in the Tigers hands, and they will be nervously awaiting the outcome of the game between Hougang and DPMM next Monday to see if they will be playing in the cup or plate competition.