By Noah TanFollow @@Noah_Tan
Reporting from the Toa Payoh Stadium
The Young Lions took a surprise lead in the 36th minute when forward Sherif El-Masri scored from the penalty spot after Hamqaamal Shah had fouled Shamil Sharif in the box.
Although Balestier were the dominant side, they were unable to break down a resolute opposition defence for the majority of the game, but they were finally rewarded for their persistence when striker Qiu Li headed home from Park Kang-jin's corner in the 81st minute.
The Young Lions came into the game with the unwanted distinction of being the only team in the league yet to record a single point this season, and they expectedly started the game on the backfoot as Balestier did all the early running and dominated possession in midfield.
Chances were at a premium in a cagey opening quarter of the game, but Balestier finally created the first opportunity of note in the 26th minute when Qiu charged down the right flank, burst past Sufianto Salleh and fired a low shot at goal which Rudy Khairullah did well to parry away.
Two minutes later, Ruhaizad Ismail came even closer for the Tigers when his clever 25-yard volleyed lob caught Rudy out of position but just drifted wide of goal.
However, it was the Young Lions who took the lead against the run of play in the 38th minute. A long ball punted forward reached Shamil on the right, the 20-year-old did well to wriggle his way into the penalty box before being illegally hauled down by Hamqaamal, leaving referee Mohd Irwan Samsuddin no choice but to point to the spot.
Up stepped El-Masri, who calmly placed his spot-kick past the outstretched dive of Daniel Ong to record only the Young Lions' second goal of the campaign.
Balestier almost fashioned an instant response two minutes later when Qiu jinked his way into the box past two challenges before firing a shot at goal which deflected into the sidenetting.
Despite edging the first half in terms of possession, Balestier failed to create any clear-cut goalscoring chances and they found themselves trailing by a goal going into the break.
However, the Tigers came out all guns blazing in the second half as they started to play with a greater sense of urgency in a bid to level the scores.
With the Tigers looking unlikely toothless up front, head coach Darren Stewart threw on strikers Kim Min-ho and Patrick Paran for Hamqaamal and Ruhaizad as he looked to freshen up his side's attack.
And both substitutes combined well five minutes later to present a gilt-edged opportunity for Qiu in the box, but the Singapore international's low drive was well beaten away by the impressive Rudy.
Stewart's attacking substitutions certainly gave the Tigers more bite up front, and they finally put the ball in the back of the net in the 73rd minute through Kim's well-taken volley following a scramble in the penalty box, but the referee ruled the effort out for a prior infringement.
Two minutes later Balestier came close yet again when Rudy's weak punch out fell straight to Paran, who planted his half-volley wide of the unguarded goal under pressure.
Qiu came close to opening his goal tally for the season when he fired a low goalbound shot from 27 yards out which took a slight deflection off a Young Lions defender and went out for a corner.
But from the resulting corner, Balestier got the equaliser they were searching for.
Park Kang-jin floated the ball into the box, Qiu jumped highest and planted a firm header past Rudy's desperate dive as the Tigers' relentless pressure on the Young Lions goal finally paid dividends.
And it was Qiu once more who very nearly popped up with the winner two minutes from time when he curled a 25-yard free-kick just past the post.
That proved to be the final chance of the game as the Young Lions' backline held firm in the face of wave after wave of attack from the home team in injury time.
Balestier Khalsa: Daniel Ong, Hamqaamal Shah (Kim Min-ho 61'), Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha, Obadin Aikhena, Ruhaizad Ismail (Patrick Paran 61'), Tengku Mushadad, Park Kang-jin, Poh Yi Feng, Jung Hee-bong (Suria Prakash 74'), Qiu Li.
Courts Young Lions: Rudy Khairullah, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Nurullah Hussein (Afiq Noor 11'), Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Tajeli Salamat, Eddie Chang (Emmeric Ong 70'), Sherif El-Masri, Nur Na'iim Ishak, Shamil Sharif, Ignatius Ang, Sufianto Salleh (Stanely Ng 86').
Image courtesy of Balestier Khalsa Football Club