Singapore Premier League • September 28, 2015
Tigers Cut Gap To Five Points
Written by: Shawn Lim
Balestier Khalsa remained within touching distance of league leaders Brunei DPMM after beating Harimau Muda 2-0 on Sunday night at Hang Jebat Stadium
Goals from Robert Pericic and Miroslav Kristic in either half were enough to send the Tigers to second place in the table, five points behind DPMM and one point ahead of third place Warriors FC, who have a game in hand.
The visitors began the match quietly, but their first attack led to the opening goal after some great buildup play by Ignatius Ang and Nurullah Hussein on the left flank saw the latter crossing a low ball to Pericic at the near post in the fifth minute.
The unmarked Croatian had all the time in the world to control the ball before slamming it past Farhan Abu Bakar for his seventh goal of the season.
The hosts’ response to the early goal was not to panic, but to stick to their chosen game plan of pressing Balestier high up the field.
Captain Nazirul Hashim was unlucky not to draw the Young Tigers level just two minutes later when he curled in a free-kick that looked destined for the top right corner, only to see Ridwan Jamil head the ball out for a corner.
Faris Shah was next to try his luck in the 13th minute, but fired wide after receiving a splendid low cross from Syahrul Azwari.
Nazirul then had another glorious opportunity to pull a goal back for the hosts after finding space in the 18-yard box, but fired his shot straight at Balestier custodian Zaiful Nizam.
Zulkiffli Hassim could have doubled the Tigers’ lead three minutes before the break after being sent through on goal by a fantastic pass from Tarik Cmajcanin, but Farhan came charging off his line to collect the ball.
Harimau Muda emerged from the break determined to reduce the deficit and almost succeeded in the 51st minute when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box, but Adam Nor curled his shot just wide.
A minute later, Zaiful was required to thwart Akhir Bahari’s rasping drive after the midfielder was the first to pounce onto a loose ball in the 18-yard box.
Balestier managed to extend their lead when Kristic’s run forward from the edge of the box was expertly picked out by Ang from the left flank in the 53rd minute and the Croatian tapped the ball into an empty net to become the league’s third-joint top scorer with 14 goals.
The Young Tigers’ misery was further compounded when Kenny Pallraj received his second yellow card of the game for a blatant foul in the 74th minute.
Despite having to cope with a numerical disadvantage, the hosts refused to give up in their search for a goal to reduce the deficit.
Their efforts almost paid off in stoppage time when Adam fired a piledriver from 30 yards out and saw Zaiful spill his shot, but the ball was cleared by Igor Cerina as the referee blew for full-time moments later.
Harimau Muda: Farhan Abu Bakar (GK), Wan Ahmad Zafran, Nazirul Hashim (C), Irfan Zakaria (Amirul Hisyam 83’), Annas Rahmat, Ridzuan Abdunloh Pula (Asri Mardzuki 69’), Akhir Bahari, Faris Shah, Kenny Pallraj, Adam Nor, Syahrul Azwari (Kumaahran Sathasivam 46’)
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Hanafi Salleh, Emir Lotinac, Igor Cerina, Nurullah Hussein (Yusiskandar Yusop 79’), Zulkiffli Hassim, Ridwan Jamil (Poh Yifeng 66’), Tarik Cmajcanin (Jonathan Xu 83’), Ignatius Ang, Miroslav Kristic, Robert Pericic