Tigers join title race
Kraljevic's men have sneaked into third position and are now a genuine threat
BALESTIER KHALSA 2
(Robert Pericic 13, Miroslav Kristic 60)
BRUNEI DPMM 1
(Paulo Sergio 90+4)
All season long, there was talk of a three-horse race for the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title among Brunei DPMM, Albirex Niigata and Warriors FC.
After last night, add a fourth contender: Balestier Khalsa.
The Tigers produced a complete performance at Toa Payoh Stadium to claim a 2-1 win over leaders DPMM, moving past Warriors into third place and finding themselves now just three points off the pace.
For some time now, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic has maintained his side are aiming to challenge for the title.
Nonetheless, he admits that it may not necessarily be a bad thing if they continue to be underestimated.
"It does help because we haven't had to play with much pressure," said Kraljevic.
"Maybe there's a little bit of pressure now because we've been performing well, but we've always believed we can compete with anyone in the competition.
"We're three points behind now and the next four games will be crucial for us, but there's still a long way to go before the end of the season."
Entering the clash on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, the Tigers started with plenty of confidence.
Zulkiffli Hassim and Miroslav Kristic spurned decent opportunities inside the opening eight minutes.
And in the 13th minute, the Tigers broke the deadlock when Yusiskandar Yusop raced through after an incisive pass from Kristic and, although his initial shot was saved by Wardun Yussof, Robert Pericic was left with the simplest of tap-ins.
Kristic was unlucky not to make it 2-0 two minutes before halftime when he latched onto Ignatius Ang's low cross before blasting a shot, only to see Wardun push it onto the bar and out to safety.
Nonetheless, the Croat got it right on his third attempt on the hour mark as he embarked on a determined run towards goal and held off three defenders before finishing into the bottom corner.
DPMM's hopes of mounting a comeback were not helped when Joe Gamble received a straight red in the 79th minute for stamping on Tarik Cmajcanin.
Although Paulo Sergio did reduce the arrears deep into injury-time when he raced through before coolly lifting the ball over the onrushing Zaiful Nizam, it proved to be a mere consolation.
The result was DPMM's first defeat in eight league matches and, while coach Steve Kean was visibly unhappy at the final whistle, he also admitted their conquerors now had to be regarded as a legitimate title threat.
"Of course, I'm very disappointed," said the Scot.
"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game, but we didn't have a good night while our opponents did.
"You would definitely have to say Balestier are in it (the title race).
"They're a tough team to play against and they never give up in any match."
- Warriors 1
- BALESTIER KHALSA: Zaiful Nizam, Hanafi Salleh, Emir Lotinac, Igor Cerina, Yusiskandar Yusop (Jonathan Xu 82), Ridwan Jamil (Poh Yi Feng 77), Zulkiffli Hassim (Hazzuwan Halim 61), Tarik Cmajcanin, Ignatius Ang, Miroslav Kristic, Robert Pericic.
- BRUNEI DPMM: Wardun Yussof, Aminuddin Zakwan, Boris Raspudic, Brian McLean, Sairol Sahari (Maududi Hilmi 69), Rosmin Kamis, Hendra Azam (Azwan Saleh 46), Joe Gamble, Paulo Sergio, Shahrazen Said, Rafael Ramazotti.
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Miroslav Kristic (Balestier Khalsa)