Singapore Premier League • April 8, 2018

Balestier pay penalty as Albirex maintain perfect record


Keegan Linderboom’s miss from the spot proved costly as the champions eked out a slim 1-0 win

Balestier Khalsa FC midfielder Hazzuwan Halim looks to challenge an opponent.

SINGAPORE, 8 APRIL 2018 – Champions Albirex Niigata FC (S) were made to sweat for their second consecutive win of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign as they edged unlucky Balestier Khalsa FC 1-0 at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening.

The hosts held the fort bravely for large parts of the game, before succumbing to a 76th-minute own goal by centre-back Sheikh Abdul Hadi.

But it could have been all so different for the Tigers had they not spurned an excellent opportunity to open the scoring after just 10 minutes.

After Fadli Kamis was tripped by Shun Kumagai in the area, New Zealander forward Keegan Linderboom had the opportunity to score a second straight penalty in as many games. However, his low effort was well read by Albirex goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa and Noor Akid Nordin’s follow-up was deflected wide.

Linderboom could have made amends seven minutes later when he broke free in the six-yard box, but his goal-bound shot was hacked off the line by an Albirex defender.

Albirex gradually settled into the game and should have scored on 29 minutes. Hiroyoshi Kamata was sent clear by Taku Morinaga’s through ball, but the right winger fired wide with just Zaiful Nizam to beat.

Making his first start for the White Swans, Adam Swandi slowly came alive and forced Zaiful into a good save from outside the area on 36 minutes after cutting inside his man.

A minute later, Kamata found space in the box to fire a powerful volley but was denied by the outstretched right boot of Zaiful.

The intensity of the game dropped in the second half with both sides lacking the cutting edge upfront.

As the game progressed, Balestier seemed content to hold out for a draw while Albirex piled on the pressure in search of the winner.

There was a warning sign for Balestier on 67 minutes as Shuhei Hoshino headed narrowly over from Adam’s left-wing cross.

The Tigers failed to heed that as Albirex duly found the goal they craved 14 minutes from time.

After a right-wing cross went unchecked inside the Balestier box, Albirex left-back Kenya Takahashi reacted the quickest to drive a teasing cross in that Hadi diverted into his own net to keep the White Swans’ 100 per cent record intact.

What they said
Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “It was unlucky for us to miss that penalty. If we had made it 1-0, it would have been a totally different game. But we worked really hard, especially the three Under-23 players. They’ve never played professional football before, but are playing very well now and growing from game to game.

“The own goal can happen to anyone. The mistake came because they gave us a lot of pressure. It bothers me that we have no points yet so we have to improve. The two foreign strikers (Linderboom and Vedran Mesec) need to start putting the ball in the back of the net.”

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “We knew this was going to be a difficult game. Our players are still young and inexperienced, that’s why we could not adapt in the first half. We made some changes in the second half and we played better.

“For Adam, he has a lot of areas to improve on – just like the rest of the team. He need to give us more attacking threat. I’m happy we have six points from two games, but there’s still a lot of things for us to work on.”

Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK)(C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman (Nurullah Hussein 73’), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Fariz Faizal (Sufianto Salleh 71’), Raihan Rahman, Huzaifah Aziz, Noor Akid Nordin (Hazzuwan Halim 77’), Vedran Mesec, Keegan Linderboom.
Unused subs: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Nurisham Jupri, Khairuddin Omar, Sharin Majid.

Albirex Niigata FC (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Riku Moriyasu, Shun Kumagai, Kaishu Yamazaki, Kenya Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Kamata (Kodai Sumikawa 90’), Daiki Asaoka, Wataru Murofushi (C), Adam Swandi, Taku Morinaga (Ryujiro Yamanaka 78’), Shuhei Hosino (Shuhei Sasahara 90’).
Unused subs: Shahul Rayyan (GK),Taiki Itsukaichi (GK), Kazuki Sumiishi, Ibuki Inoue.

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