Protectors Dig Deep To Edge Tigers
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Substitute Khairul Nizam scored one and made another as Home United came from behind to beat Balestier Khalsa 2-1 in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at Toa Payoh Stadium on Monday night.
With this result, the Protectors find themselves just two points behind leaders Albirex Niigata (S) who fell 2-1 to Hougang United in the other match played on the same day.
Coming into this on the back of a goalless draw against the Garena Young Lions, the hosts had the first chance of note after four minutes but Raihan fired a freekick straight at Home custodian Rudy Khairullah.
Home carved out a decent opening at the other end minutes later, with Amiruldin Asraf volleying wide following a cross from Plazibat.
Balestier’s soak and strike strategy worked a treat, as they kept the Home front two of Faris Ramli and Stipe Plazibat at bay.
Aung Kyaw Naing then got through on goal in the 17th minute, only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge from Home defender Irfan Fandi.
Amiruldin had another opportunity to put the Bishan-based side ahead three minutes later but the 20-year-old lashed over from Sufianto Salleh’s cross.
The above-mentioned two players would combine again with three minutes remaining in the first-half but Amiruldin could only fire straight at Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam.
Rudy was tested almost immediately after the restart, having to stretch to keep out Kyaw Zayar Win’s shot from the edge of the area in the 47th minute.
The deadlock was however broken in the 53rd minute as Raihan sent Rudy the wrong way from the spot after team-mate Fadli Kamis was adjudged to have been felled.
Irfan could have levelled matters four minutes later but his header at the far post was blocked for a corner as the Balestier defence heaved a sigh of relief.
Sufianto’s effort then trickled wide just after the hour mark before Home were reduced to ten men after Sirina Camara was dismissed for a second yellow.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Home pushed forward in search of an equaliser and were nearly rewarded in the 76th minute but Plazibat curled one over from the edge of the box.
However, Aidil Sharin’s side would equalise three minutes later as Nizam thumped home from close range off Izzdin’s corner delivery to make it 1-1.
Things then got worse for Balestier six minutes from time as defender Hanafi Salleh was sent off for a tug on Nizam in the box.
The resulting spotkick was coolly slotted home by Plazibat for his 18th league goal as Home went in front for the first time in the match.
Balestier woes were further compounded after Zayar Win saw red in the closing stages but it mattered little as Home hung on for their ninth victory of the season.
The result leaves Balestier in search of their first league win since April as they remain in seventh with seven points in 13 games.
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “I was happy with the boys, they played very well today. I am proud of the effort, they worked very hard. Unfortunately, we made a mistake and were punished by one of the best teams in the S.League.
“We didn’t go out to defend today; we put the pressure on Home and they never really created a good chance throughout. They had possession but there was not much penetration.”
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “I am definitely relieved with the win. Balestier did very well and we’ve always have had difficulties playing against a team like this so credit has to be given to them.
“Albirex losing is good news and I’m sure the boys will be happy to hear it. It’s good for the league and for us. We are now two points away so it’s up to us to keep ourselves as close as possible.
“Nizam has always been fantastic for us this season. Unfortunately I couldn’t start him as he was not match fit. But he’s picking up slowly and getting better so there’s definitely more to come from him.”
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Shah Hirul (Huzaifah Aziz 72’), Raihan Rahman, Kyaw Zayar Win, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit (Hazzuwan Halim 83’), Jonathan Tan (Hanafi Akbar 83’), Aung Kyaw Naing
Home United: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Juma’at Jantan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Irfan Fandi, Sirina Camara, Amiruldin Asraf (Khairul Nizam 53’), Hariss Harun (C), Izzdin Shafiq, Sufianto Salleh, Faris Ramli (Marijan Suto 90’), Stipe Plazibat