Singapore Cup • August 29, 2018

Ten-man Balestier hold off Geylang in Singapore Cup stalemate


The visitors saw Noor Akid Nordin sent off in the second half in a goal-less first leg

Geylang simply could not find a way past Balestier.

SINGAPORE, 29 AUG 2018 – Geylang International FC were unable to take advantage of their numerical advantage against ten-man Balestier Khalsa in the first leg of their Singapore Cup first-round tie, which ended 0-0.

It was a drab affair with neither side really able to impose themselves in the game with neither goalkeeper having much to do.

The game came to life only in the 57th minute when Noor Akid Nordin received a second caution for what appeared to be dissent.

The winger, whom Tigers Head Coach Marko Kraljevic had shouted at numerous times in the first period, appeared to be unhappy with referee Nathan Chan’s decision and kicked out against the metal railings by the side of the running track as he headed for the dressing room.

Yet it was the visitors, despite having an numerical disadvantage, who had two opportunities to find the net.

A pinpoint cross from Hazzuwan Halim from the right on 60 minutes found Keegan Linderboom at the far post, but the striker somehow failed to convert despite towering above everyone else to get to the ball.

Three minutes later, Shaqi Sulaiman was unable to connect cleanly after meeting Huzaifah Aziz’s delivery from a set-piece, allowing Zainol Gulam to claim the ball easily.

Geylang nearly punished them on 67 minutes. A searching ball from Azhar Sairudin found Fairoz Hasan right outside the Balestier penalty area, whose crisp volley was superbly saved at full stretch by Zaiful.

From the resulting corner, Fuad Ramli fired narrowly over.

Zulfadli Zainal then caught everyone unaware on 75 minutes by going for goal directly from the corner, but struck the woodwork instead.

Geylang started dominating and could have gone ahead on six minutes later, only for Singapore international Zaiful to deny them once again. Azhar and Fairoz had combined beautifully with a couple of one-twos to split open the Balestier defence before the former laid it on for Danish Irfan, but the defensive midfielder’s shot was palmed away by a well-positioned Zaiful.

Balestier almost made Geylang pay for those misses as they hit them on the break, but Vedran Mesec found the side netting instead.

A defensive lapse at the back by Geylang then gave Zakir Samsudin a clear shot at goal, only for his effort to loop over the crossbar.

Right before the final whistle, the Tigers carved out one last chance through a long throw from Huzaifah. The ball was allowed to find its way to Fadli Kamis, who planted his header inches wide, leaving both sides with all to fight for in the second leg on Saturday at the Toa Payoh Stadium.

Geylang Head Coach Hirotaka Usui: “We have two games, so I didn’t want to take too much risks today. If this round was a one-game knockout stage, I would have done so. I needed to change strategy because we had two players falling out, so I wasn’t able to risk too much.

“We focused on defending in training. So today, we managed to keep a clean sheet and that’s good. The defenders looked comfortable; nil-nil is an okay result for us, as Balestier is a very strong team.”

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “We came here with the aim of winning the game, but in the second half we had a sending off and everything changed. I’m happy with the draw, especially with just 10 players for almost the whole second half.

“Akid is young, it’s his first full season in the Singapore Premier League. He needs some time to understand the game. It’s not that easy to become a professional. He needs some time. He’s young and learning and hopefully he can learn from his mistakes.

“On Saturday we have to change some things – we will see in the next two days. We have to see who is available. Maybe we will only make the decision on Saturday. But of course, I’m confident of winning the game on Saturday.”

Geylang: Zainol Gulam (GK), Jufri Taha (C), Zulfadli Zainal, Darren Teh, Azhar Sairudin, Fuad Ramli, Yeo Hai Ngee (Cameron Bell 65′), Danish Irfan (Ahmad Zaki 89′), Afiq Yunos, Fairoz Hasan, Yuki Ichikawa.
Unused subs: Basil Chan (GK), Faris Danial (GK), Umar Akhbar, Sadiq Rahim.

Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK)(C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman, Hazzuwan Halim, Huzaifah Aziz, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fariz Faizal (Zakir Samsudin 74′), Ahmad Syahir, Keegan Linderboom, Vedran Mesec (Sufianto Salleh 85′), Noor Akid Nordin.
Unused subs: Hafiz Ahmad, Khalili Khalif, Nurullah Hussein, Nazri Sabri, Daniel Hazreel.