News • June 28, 2016
RHB Singapore Cup 2016: 10-Man Tigers Rally To Defeat Protectors
Written by: Shawn Lim
Ahmad Syahir played the part of a super-sub to help 10-man Balestier Khalsa snatch a late winner against Home United in the first-leg of the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals at Toa Payoh Stadium on Monday night.
Niko Tokic had headed the hosts into the lead in the first period before the visitors restored parity after the break through Khairul Nizam. However, Ahmad came on to score minutes before the end and hand Balestier the advantage before the second-leg.
It was the Tigers who came a whisker away from opening the scoring inside two minutes of the game when an excellent delivery by Fadhil Noh into the 18-yard box found Tokic, but the Croatian headed the ball straight into the arms of Home custodian Zulfairuz Rudy.
Home controlled proceedings soon after, but found that clean, clear-cut sights of goal were hard to come by as they were unable to create anything of note in the final third.
Their only real chance of the half came in the 14th minute when Shamil Sharif’s throw-in found Azhar Sairudin, who made a sharp turn before unleashing a fierce drive at goal which was brilliantly tipped over by Tigers custodian Zaiful Nizam.
The hosts finally broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when Tokic – restored to the starting XI after sitting out the 4-1 loss to Brunei DPMM because of injury – rose the highest to meet Fadhil’s corner and powered home a bullet header.
Balestier wasted a glorious chance to pull further away four minutes before the break when Fadli found Sheikh Abdul Hadi at the far post with a pinpoint cross, but Zulfairuz got down well to smother the centre-back’s header.
Jamil Ali came close to adding a second two minutes into the second period as Balestier started on the front foot, firing an effort from just outside the box that flashed narrowly wide.
The Protectors could have pulled level in the 57th minute when Azhar sent Nizam – who had came on for Ken Ilso after the break – through on goal, but Zaiful came charging off his line to clear the ball.
Nizam then repaid coach Philippe Aw’s decision to bring him on two minutes later, weaving and turning his way past a sea of defenders in the 18-yard box before slotting the ball home to equalise for the Protectors.
The match seemed to have slipped from the grasp of the hosts when they were reduced to 10 men after Nurullah Hussein was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 78th minute for fouling Nizam.
However, Balestier rallied and regained the lead four minutes from time when substitute Ahmad Syahir’s effort from outside the box went in off both posts to crush the Protectors’ hopes of a comeback victory.
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic: “We had a few chances at 1-0 up and did not take them. Then Home scored, then we got a man sent off and that made it more difficult for us. So it was lucky that we managed to score a second.
“But I’m happy with the result because it gives us a good position ahead of the second-leg.”
Home United coach Philippe Aw: “We lost the ball in midfield after trying to play one-touch football on a field like this and it led to a corner, which was how Balestier scored because they are strong in the air.
“But I told the players that this tie is 180 minutes and there is still everything to fight for. What’s important now is to recover properly over the next two days and avoid conceding the kind of goals which we let in tonight.”
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Nurullah Hussein, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Emir Lotinac, Tan Danial Farhan (Gary Loo 72′), Jamil Ali, Syafiq Zainal (Smajovic Sadin 55′), Fadhil Noh (Ahmad Syahir 69′), Niko Tokic
Home United: Zulfairuz Rudy (GK), Redzwan Atan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Shahrin Saberin (Amir Zalani 89′), Zulfahmi Arifin, Syahiran Miswan, Haziq Azman, Shamil Sharif (Mahathir Azeman 69′), Azhar Sairudin, Ambroise Begue, Ken Ilso (C) (Khairul Nizam 46′)