Singapore Premier League • June 9, 2014
Ruhaizad Salvages Point For Balestier
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Substitute Ruhaizad Ismail cancelled out Soichiro Tanaka’s early opener as he salvaged a late point for Balestier Khalsa in a 1-1 draw with Albirex Niigata (S) at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday evening.
Three points would have seen Albirex overtake Tampines Rovers in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League standings, but the result meant they dropped to sixth after Hougang United’s 3-2 win over Warriors FC on the same day.
It was a game the White Swans dominated for most parts, creating numerous goalscoring chances but were ultimately let down by some poor finishing and were made to pay towards the end.
They were also the better side in the first-half and were in control of the game with their fluid passing.
Balestier on the other hand, were struggling to break down a stout defence marshalled by Taiyo Nishida and Shuhei Hotta as they kept Goran Ljubojevic and Park Kang Jin relatively quiet throughout.
It was therefore no surprise when the visitors drew first blood in the 19th minute as Tanaka finished off a well-worked attacking move.
Finding himself on the edge of the six-yard box off Kazuya Okazaki’s cutback, the defender hit a first-time shot which deflected past a wrong-footed Zaiful Nizam for the lead.
The returning Okazaki almost turned scorer on 25 minutes but Zaiful was equal to the task as he flew across goal to keep out the former’s curling freekick.
Balestier then fashioned their first real chance of the night on the half-hour mark but that was almost all they could muster all game apart from Ruhaizad’s equaliser.
It was Ljubojevic who first saw his header clawed out by Albirex custodian Kazuki Kishigami before Park Kang Jin’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Ljubojevic came even closer five minutes before the interval and this time his effort was hacked off the line by a white shirt with the half-time whistle coming shortly after.
Albirex continued from where they left off after the restart as Kazuki Sakamoto and Keisuke Ota both had opportunities but were not clinical enough to convert them.
Tanaka could have added to his tally in the 62nd minute after exchanging passes down the right but Zaiful denied him with a save at his near post before Okazaki drove one into the side-netting.
Sakamoto was unable to put the game to bed in the 73rd minute when he found himself free in the box as his effort was saved by Zaiful instead.
It was a miss which proved costly as Ruhaizad popped up with the all-important equaliser for the Tigers with a minute of regulation time remaining.
From all of 30 yards, the winger unleashed a powerful freekick which dipped just right over the arms of Kishigami as the teams came away with a point each.