Ignatius' late winner send Balestier into final of TNP League Cup
Ang the hero as Kraljevic's men book Cup final date with Albirex
BALESTIER KHALSA 3
(Miroslav Kristic 27-pen, 35, Ignatius Ang 85)
HOUGANG UNITED 2
(Fareez Farhan 1, Carlos Delgado 74)
All season long last year, he would watch from the stands as his LionsXII teammates huffed and puffed on the field, wondering if he would even get the chance to be included in the matchday 18, let alone get a taste of the action.
But, with one elegant swing of his left leg last night, second-half substitute Ignatius Ang banished those demons, as his 85th-minute lob over Hougang United goalkeeper Ahmadulhaq Che Omar helped his new club Balestier Khalsa to a 3-2 win over another of his former sides in the The New Paper League Cup second semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Ang's late winner in a thrilling match ensured the Tigers will take on Albirex Niigata in the TNP League Cup final on Friday at Jalan Besar.
Speaking after the game, the 22-year-old, who also scored in Balestier's 4-0 drubbing of reigning S.League champions Warriors FC in the group stage, told TNP: "I want to show that I'm not a player to sit in the stands, or a bench player.
"I'm very thankful and happy to get the chance to play and score again in this competition. My coach Marko Kraljevic has played a big part in my development. He knew me when he coached me in the Balestier Under-16s, and he encouraged me to forget about last year and believe in myself.
"I was short of confidence after not playing last year, but now it is building up with every game I play and these goals help in a big way, too."
The Tigers, League Cup winners in 2013 and RHB Singapore Cup champions last year, have now made it to three finals in three years, and Kraljevic said: "Balestier are no more just another club. How many clubs can make it to three cup finals in three years?
"And Iggy, he is the best guy in training, nobody can stop him. So it is no surprise to me he got the winner for us tonight. He hasn't played for a year, he just needs confidence."
Balestier went into the game as favourites but Fareez Farhan shocked the Tigers with the opener after just 18 seconds when he latched on to Carlos Delgado's pass and shot across Zaiful Nizam into goal.
However, the Tigers grew into the game and overturned the deficit before half time.
The impressive Miroslav Kristic won a penalty which he tucked away after 27 minutes after Kenneth Chang hacked at his heels.
Eight minutes later, the 25-year-old Croat smashed Zulkiffli Hassim's cutback beyond Ahmadulhaq Che Omar.
In an enthralling see-saw encounter, Carlos Delgado made it 2-2 when Zaiful released the ball while trying to prevent a corner, allowing Hougang's standout performer Fareez to set up his Argentinian teammate.
With extra time looming, Tarik Cmajcanin released Ang with a lovely through-ball for the latter to kill off the match with a classy finish.
Hougang coach Salim Moin bemoaned the lack of quality service for Fareez, and added: "The players and I are disappointed not to make it to the final.
"We failed in terms of creativity when we had numerical advantage in attacking positions.
"It was a case of miscommunication and poor marking to allow Balestier to sneak in and score the winner, but we also have to give credit to Balestier."
While excited about making another final, Kraljevic is not about to get carried away.
He said: "Even though Albirex beat us in the league, we can win the final and bring back the cup to Toa Payoh.
"But we cannot be too confident, and I'm sure they are feeling the same way."
- BALESTIER KHALSA: Zaiful Nizam, Ahmad Syahir, Emir Lotinac, Igor Cerina, Ho Wai Loon (Hanafi Salleh 90), Fadhil Noh (Hazzuwan Halim 90), Poh Yifeng, Tarik Cmajcanin, Zulkiffli Hassim (Ignatius Ang 68), Robert Pericic, Miroslav Kristic.
- HOUGANG UNITED: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Kenneth Chang (Taufiq Ghani 64), Yuki Uchiyama (Diego Gama 72), Kunihiro Yamashita, Fazli Jaffar, Fairoz Hasan, Atsushi Shimono, Carlos Delgado, Tengku Mushadad (Muhaymin Salim 87), Nurhilmi Jasni, Fareez Farhan.
- TNP Man of the Match: Miroslav Kristic (Balestier Khalsa)