Star-less Balestier in 'perfect win' over New Radiant
Kraljevic's side make light of absence of their star strikers
ALESTIER KHALSA 3
(Zulkiffli Hassim 23, Jamil Ali 32, Fadhil Noh 61)
NEW RADIANT 0
No foreign strikers, no problem.
Even without their Croatian strikeforce of Miroslav Kristic (suspended) and Robert Pericic (injured), Balestier Khalsa eased past Maldives side New Radiant 3-0 in their AFC Cup Group F match at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
The result means they will qualify for the last 16 of the continental competition if they beat Hong Kong side Kitchee in Kowloon on May 10.
Tigers coach Marko Kraljevic purred at his side's slick performance, saying: "This is our best performance this season.
"We did well in defence, kept a clean sheet and scored three goals.
"What more could you ask for? It was a perfect win."
Balestier have had a tough start to the new Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season, posting their first win after nine attempts last week against bottom side Garena Young Lions.
But they were in scintillating form last night.
Syafiq Zainal sounded a warning after just nine minutes, when his lob beat the New Radiant goalkeeper Ahmed Fairooz, but bounced off the crossbar.
They took the lead in the 23rd minute when Zulkiffli Hassim swept home the rebound after Fairooz could only push Serbian midfielder Emir Lotinac's shot onto the post.
Man of the Match Jamil Ali doubled his side's lead with a cool finish into the bottom of the corner nine minutes later.
Kristic's replacement in the starting 11, Fadhil Noh, made no mistake in 61st minute, wrapping up the win with a curling effort from the edge of the box after a mistake by Abdulla Haneef.
The performance gave Kraljevic belief his side could see off Kitchee - whom they beat 1-0 at Jalan Besar last month - and progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in history.
"We know how to beat them," said the German-born Croat.
"Their (domestic) season just ended, they're not the champions, so maybe we can get a result."
- BALESTIER: Zaiful Nizam, Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Hanafi Salleh, Ahmad Syahir (Syafiq Irawan 80), Emir Lotinac, Syafiq Zainal, Jamil Ali, Fazli Ayob (Zulkhair Mustaffa 69), Zulkiffli Hassim, Fadhil Noh (Hazzuwan Halim 61).
- NEW RADIANT: Ahmed Fairooz, Ahmed Nuhaadh, Abdulla Haneef, Velichko Velichkov, Mohamed Karam (Hussain Lamaan Ahmed 63) Ahmed Niyaz (Mohamed Sadin Hannan 35), Faruhad Ismail (Ali Shaahmiu 78), Hamza Mohamed, Rilwan Waheed, Mohamed Rasheed, Izzath Abdul Baree.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Jamil Ali