Hazzuwan Ensures Tigers End Season On High
Written by: Ryan Low
Hazzuwan Halim’s second-half penalty ensured Balestier Khalsa claimed a 1-0 win away at Hougang United on Thursday night to finish the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League season on a victorious note.
That was the Tigers’ fifth win of the season as they equalled their 2016 tally of 19 points. It also put them five points clear of eighth-placed Brunei DPMM, who still have two games in hand.
Determined to make an impression in their last home game of the season, Hougang flew out of the blocks and could have scored as early as the first minute.
Iqbal Hussain put in a great cross from the right, but captain Nurhilmi Jasni was only able to direct his header straight at Zaiful Nizam.
Balestier then settled in and carved out their first opportunity on seven minutes, with Aung Kyaw Naing firing just off-target after being found by Myanmarese compatriot Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit’s low cross.
Hougang largely dominated proceedings in the first half, but was unable to find the cutting edge upfront.
They went agonisingly close in the 35th minute, with Iqbal’s fierce close-range shot coming back off the crossbar after the former had strode onto Faiz Salleh’s inward pass.
Balestier emerged for the second half with much more vigour and duly broke the deadlock 14 minutes after the restart.
With Nurhilmi penalised for handling in the area, Hazzuwan stepped up to send Ridhuan Barudin the wrong way from the spot for his eighth goal in all competitions this year.
Nurhilmi could have redeemed himself almost immediately after the opener, but fired off-target from Nazrul Nazari’s cutback.
Hougang coach Philippe Aw then threw on impact subs Fairoz Hasan and Justin Hui in place of Amir Zalani and Syahiran Miswan for the final 20 minutes.
However, the Cheetahs were unable to bring the Balestier house down.
Iqbal acrobatically volleyed wide from Faiz’s left-wing cross on 73 minutes, before French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale fired well over from the edge of the box moments later.
There was time for a final opportunity in injury time, but Japanese centre-back Atsushi Shirota could only head over from Fairoz’s inswinging corner.
Time soon ran out for the home side as the result condemned them to sixth, with no chance of overhauling Warriors FC for fifth spot.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “We knew it’s going to be a tough game because it’s Balestier’s last match of the season. They are a decent side which is tough to break down.
“Sometimes in such games, you need that half-chance to change the game and unfortunately Iqbal hit the bar. If that had gone in, it would have been a different game.
“It’s good that we continued to fight in the second half, it’s just that we can’t finish off our chances and that’s the story of our whole season. It’s disappointing that we cannot go into the last game against Warriors FC to give a good fight, but it’s a good chance to give some young boys opportunities ahead of next season.”
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “It’s a good present from the boys to finish the season. They worked very hard and did enough to win this game.
“It’s very good for us if we hold on to seventh. Half of our team were new at the start of this year and we had problems scoring upfront. But we improved and played much better in the last 10 games of the season.
“Hazzuwan and Huzaifah (Aziz), these are two young players who have done very well for us and they have good futures ahead of them.”
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Faiz Salleh, Syahiran Miswan (Justin Hui 70’), Zulfahmi Arifin, Amir Zalani (Fairoz Hasan 70’), Iqbal Hussain, Antoine Viterale, Nurhilmi Jasni (C)
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Tajeli Salamat, Huzaifah Aziz (Shah Hirul 84’), Raihan Rahman, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit (Khairuddin Omar 88’), Hazzuwan Halim, Aung Kyaw Naing