Singapore Premier League • August 12, 2018

Balestier stalwart Zaiful shuts out Young Lions in goalkeeping masterclass


The 31-year-old custodian was simply unbeatable in their 1-0 win

Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam pulled off several top saves.

SINGAPORE, 12 AUG 2018 – Balestier captain Zaiful Nizam overshadowed Keegan Linderboom’s goal-scoring return from injury with a goalkeeping masterclass in Balestier Khalsa FC’s 1-0 win over Young Lions at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening.

Linderboom had made his first start in almost two months and his header off Hazzuwan Halim’s cross in the 37th minute proved to be the winner, but it was Zaiful who was hailed as the difference by both Head Coaches.

“It’s not surprising, Zaiful is working hard and this clean sheet did not happen by chance,” Balestier’s Marko Kraljevic asserted. “He is the man of the match, he saved a few chances and gave us our clean sheet.”

Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad concurred: “Zaiful was the man for Balestier. He saved three point-blank chances, so you can’t ask for more from my team. The boys came out strongly (after conceding) so I am very disappointed and sad for them.”

Zaiful was called upon as early as the fifth minute, palming away Irfan Fandi’s goal-bound free-kick from the top corner.

Two minutes past the hour mark, the 31-year-old somehow kept out Hami Syahin’s bullet header after Rusyaidi Salime’s dead ball came off the bar and fell for the midfielder.

Ikhsan Fandi would also be denied by the shot-stopper in the 73rd minute as his top corner-bound shot was tipped away.

Zaiful’s awareness continued through till the end, as he denied Ikhsan and Irfan from close range in quick succession late on to give the Tigers their first win in eight games.

Rewarded with his third clean sheet of the season, a delighted Zaiful stressed that he is only getting started, with the AFF Suzuki Cup approaching.

“If you looked at the scoreline, it was 1-0 and anything can happen so I needed to concentrate and do my best,” said the Tigers stalwart, who has one international cap.

“The Suzuki Cup is coming up and this is part of my preparation for it and that is to do well for the club.

“It’s not easy this season — all the teams have been scoring more goals instead of behaving defensively. It’s not easy to get a clean sheet, so this is a bonus for me after so long.”

Both teams will play again three days later, Balestier taking on Hougang United FC while Young Lions will host Brunei DPMM FC.

Balestier Head Coach Kraljevic: “It was a very hard game. We have not won in a long time and playing against the Young Lions, who have been playing well and are in confidence after beating Tampines, was very hard.

“This win is very important for us to build up confidence for the next game.”

Young Lions Head Coach Fandi: “In the first half, we were lethargic and slow. There were a lot of ball watching.

“This is a huge set-back for us, I am very upset because we deserved at least a point. We have to learn and try to motivate the boys for the next game.”

Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman, Nurisham Jupri, Nurullah Hussein, Hazzuwan Halim, Huzaifah Aziz, Fariz Faizal (Noor Akid Nordin 76’), Ahmad Syahir, Keegan Linderboom (Zakir Samsudin 71’), Sanjin Vrebac (Sufianto Salleh 82’).
Unused subs: Hafiz Ahmad (GK), Nazri Sabri (GK), Khalili Khalif, Akbar Shah.

Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Joshua Pereira (C), Ikhsan Fandi, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Syahrul Sazali, Hami Syahin, Irfan Fandi, R. Aaravin, Rusyaidi Salime (Prakash Raj 66’), Jacob Mahler, Ifwat Ismail (Haiqal Pashia 54’).
Unused subs: Hairul Syirhan (GK), Nazhiim Harman, Danial Syafiq, Sharul Nizam Anwar, Amirul Hakim.