Singapore Premier League • October 2, 2014

Warriors’ Title Hopes Hang By A Thread


Written by: Phoon Jia Hui

Goran Ljubojevic’s penalty six minutes from time was enough to give Balestier Khalsa a slender 1-0 win over Warriors FC as the latter lost the chance to make up ground on Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League league leaders Brunei DPMM.

Warriors now find their title hopes hanging by a thread as they trail DPMM, whom they play on Tuesday, by five points going into the final four matches.

It was an evenly-matched affair at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Wednesday evening with both teams having chances but neither were unable to put them away until the penalty decision.

Days after securing a place in the RHB Singapore Cup final, the Tigers nearly took the lead merely two minutes in but Ruhaizad Ismail contrived to fire over with only the keeper to beat after Ridwan Jamil slipped him through.

Paul Cunningham then had the next chance for Balestier when he connected with Syed Thaha’s free kick at the far post but Hassan Sunny managed to keep it out with a flying save.

Warriors eventually had their first sighting of the goal in the 22nd minute when Shi Jiayi blasted over on the edge of the six-yard box after he was on the end of a Nicholas Velez pass.

The home side had the ball in the net on 31 minutes when Agu Casmir tapped home after Zaiful failed to deal with Velez’s shot. However, it was ruled out by the linesman’s flag as Agu was deemed to have been in an offside position.

Hassan had to be alert to push away Park Kang Jin’s cross with Ljubojevic lurking three minutes later before Ruhaizad flashed a low shot wide from outside the area just before the interval.

Alex Weaver brought on Suria Prakash at the break as he tried to inject some pace down the right and his charges were the better side thereafter.

Nicholas Velez could have made it 1-0 in the 51st minute but he fired straight at Zaiful Nizam instead.

It was a miss which almost proved costly as Ruhaizad nearly opened the scoring just before the hour mark. Hassan however had other ideas as he tipped the fierce shot from the Balestier winger onto the bar and to safety.

Warriors’ profligacy in front of goal continued to haunt them and Velez then spurned another opportunity to put his side in front in the 72nd minute.

Velez’s diving header off Shi Jiayi’s cross beat Zaiful and came off the upright but he was unable to convert the rebound from close range.

Warriors were made to pay for that costly miss in the 84th minute, as Zulfadli Zainal was adjudged to have handled Kim Minho’s cross and referee Muhd Taqi immediately pointed to the spot, much to the disbelief of the Warriors team.

Ljubojevic stepped up and coolly dispatched his spot kick for his 18th of the season along with the match’s winner.

With the victory, Marko Kraljevic’s Balestier remain sixth on 36 points, four points behind defending champions Tampines who play Home United on Thursday.