Singapore Cup • June 29, 2014

Ten-Man Balestier Make Comeback To Overcome Geylang


Written by: Muhammad Yazid

Balester Khalsa claimed a slender 2-1 victory over Geylang International in the first-leg quarter-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Saturday night.

The Eagles took the lead through an own goal by Emir Lotinac before it got cancelled out by Goran Ljubojevic and subsequently Kim Minho struck the winner deep into second half.

It was never an easy game for the Tigers who were up against Jorg Steinebrunner’s Eagles, especially with the latter storming into the quarter-finals after a 5-1 win over Woodlands Wellington.

The Eagles made their intention clear early in the game, as they secured the lead within six minutes of the start through Hafiz.

Ridhuan Muhammad found space and time on the right side to whip in a low cross for Hafiz to hit a deft finish past Zaiful Nizam, although the goal had an element of luck after it went in off the crossbar.

The goal had Balestier chasing the game but they rarely were able to make Geylang sweat as they could only conjure up some half-chances in the first half.

The best chance for the Tigers arguably came in the 25th minute, after Goran Ljubojevic headed Syed Thaha’s long free-kick over the bar.

Geylang on the other hand did not seem to be pleased with the one-goal lead, and went searching for more as they made great use of the flanks.

Ridhuan was a constant spark at the right side as his speed and trickery down the wings was too hot to handle, and one defender was never enough to close him down.

Things got worse for Balestier as they were reduced to ten-man after Yusiskandar Yusop received a direct red card for a two-footed challenge on Franco Chivilo eight minutes before half-time.

The Eagles stepped into the pitch after the restart looking for a second but were foiled by their own profligacy, as Chivilo saw his effort from 25 yards sail over the bar, before Hafiz curled an effort straight into Zaiful’s arms.

However, just as when Geylang seemed in control of the game, Balestier equalised in the 64th minute through a penalty.

Syed dipped in a cross for Ljubojevic to head towards goal, only for the ball to be handled by Joaquin Lopez, leaving the referee with little choice but to point to the spot. The Croatian duly converted the penalty he won to pull the Tigers back into the game.

From then on, momentum swung towards Balestier’s favour as they begun to dominate proceedings and Ljubojevic should have put his team in the driving seat for the first time in the game if not for a half-volley which wobbled just wide.

While Geylang fought to restore their lead, it never happened as Mustaqim Manzur’s 30-yard low shot was saved by the legs of Zaiful, before Lopez let loose a header which bounced over the bar.

Instead, it was a valiant ten-man Balestier who assumed the ascendancy, as Kim struck 12 minutes from time to gift the Tigers the lead.

Substitute Ruhaizad Ismail’s deep free-kick from the middle of the park evaded two centre-backs and was latched onto by Kim. The South Korean calmly placed his finish to the top corner, to award Balestier with a one-goal advantage prior to the second leg this Wednesday.