Balestier tame their League Cup conquerors Albirex
Balestier make amends for losing TNP League Cup final to Albirex
ALBIREX NIIGATA 0
BALESTIER KHALSA 1
(Fadhil Noh 9)
Last week, Zaiful Nizam was part of the Singapore Selection who took on Arsenal and Stoke City in the prestigious Barclays Asia Trophy.
Last night, he found himself in the less glamorous setting of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, as he returned to club duty in Balestier Khalsa's clash with Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium.
But although it was not English Premier League stars like Peter Crouch and Jon Walters that he found himself up against, Zaiful (above) showed no lack of motivation as he helped the Tigers claim an impressive 1-0 victory.
Fadhil Noh played an equally crucial role as he produced a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock in the ninth minute, but the Balestier goalkeeper's commanding display ensured his side went on to claim maximum points.
"Obviously, it was a fantastic experience to have been called up for the Singapore Selection," he told the New Paper.
"These are some of the best players in Singapore and just training and playing with them makes you want to be part of it on a regular basis.
"After losing to Albirex in the (TNP League Cup) final, we showed good spirit and beating them makes up for that defeat."
As in their 2-1 TNP League Cup final loss earlier this month, it was Balestier who drew first blood - this time, through a Fadhil stunner.
After receiving Emir Lotinac pass, the 26-year-old skipped past an opponent before unleashing a 25-metre piledriver in off the post.
Nonetheless, Albirex looked to hit back immediately and Atsushi Kawata came close with a speculative strike from the edge of the box that the alert Zaiful tipped over.
Seven minutes before the break, the custodian produced an even better save as he instinctively clawed away a snapshot from Kento Nagasaki that seemed destined for the top corner.
Yet, for all their possession, the hosts were unable to create any clear openings and it was the Tigers who came closest to adding to their tally.
Unfortunately, Croatian striker Robert Pericic squandered a couple of headers.
Still, Balestier were able to hold out for the win to stay in fourth and move seven points behind leaders Warriors FC.
"Of course, we still believe we can fight for the title," said their coach Marko Kraljevic.
"We are very comfortable even when we play against the big teams and, on our day, we can challenge anyone."
For Albirex, it was a missed chance to move top of the table after Warriors' shock 2-0 defeat by Courts Young Lions, but coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama preferred to focus on addressing more immediate concerns.
"For now, I'm not really looking at the table," he said.
"We have to focus on ourselves and I just want us to concentrate on getting the results. We will have to learn from our mistakes and try to get back to winning ways immediately."
- TNP Man of the Match: Poh Yi Feng (Balestier Khalsa)
- ALBIREX NIIGATA: Yosuke Nozawa, Mikiya Yamada, Takahiro Saito, Kento Fujihara, Itsuki Yamada, Shun Inaba, Hikaru Mizuno, Rui Kumada (Shotaro Ihata 55), Kento Nagasaki (Fumiya Kogure 82), Rion Taki, Atsushi Kawata.
- BALESTIER KHALSA: Zaiful Nizam, Yusiskandar Yusop (Jonathan Xu 90), Hanafi Salleh, Igor Cerina, Ho Wai Loon, Emir Lotinac, Poh Yi Feng, Fadhil Noh (Ridwan Jamil 85), Tarik Cmajcanin, Zulkiffli Hassim, Robert Pericic (Ignatius Ang 79).
- Warriors 0 Young Lions 2
Young Lions shock Warriors
League leaders Warriors FC were left shell-shocked after losing 2-0 to cellar dwellers Courts Young Lions at the Woodlands Stadium yesterday.
The Warriors, missing lead striker Miroslav Pejic, struggled to get past a well-organised Young Lions defence and were punished for their profligacy in the 58th minute when Canadian winger Jordan Webb headed home the opening goal.
Pouring forward in numbers during the final 10 minutes, Alex Weaver's men were caught on the counter five minutes from time, when defender Fadli Kamis scored to seal the win.
Last night's victory was only the Young Lions' second of the season after nine matches.
The team have had to go through a host of changes recently as several key players left for the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League after the South-east Asia Games football tournament last month.
It was new coach Juergen Raab's second game in charge. The team had lost 3-1 to Hougang on Monday.
- ALI KASIM