Clinical DPMM see off Balestier challenge

Great Eastern-YEO's S.League leaders DPMM FC put in a polished performance on Thursday to come from behind and beat a plucky Balestier Khalsa 3-1.

The Brazilian proving to be an immovable object.

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

The Tigers took the lead on the stroke of halftime when Park Kang-jin scored direct from a corner but the visitors equalised in similar fashion when Ivan Jerkovic's 35-yard freekick crept past a sea of players and found its way into the back of the net.

Ghanaian striker Basiru Osman then capitalised on some indecisive defending to give DPMM the lead in the 74th minute, before Vjeran Simunic's side wrapped things up in injury time when Jerkovic added a third after a sweeping counter-attack.

In an adventurous move that signalled just how determined they were to bounce back from last Sunday's shock loss to Tanjong Pagar United, Balestier coach Darren Stewart started with an attacking line-up which included winger Zulkiffli Hassim, who was again available for selection after serving a five-match suspension.

On the other hand, Simunic opted for his usual three-pronged attack of Osman, Shahrazen Said and Rodrigo Gral. Already this season, the trio have helped DPMM to the best attacking record in the competition, and the combination nearly worked for the visitors again nine minutes in.

In the first meaningful action of the match, Shahrazen picked up the ball on the right and volleyed a fantastic cross straight onto the head of Osman, who did well to get in between two defenders but could only glance his header wide.

Seven minutes later, it was the Tigers' turn to carve out a chance when Kim Min-ho's neat header on the edge of the box released Zulkiffli down the right, although the 26-year-old was forced to rush his shot and screwed it wide of Wardun Yussof's far post.

In a keenly-contested opening period that failed to produce too many clear-cut chances, Gral did well to test Balestier keeper Joey Sim with a curling freekick in the 22nd minute, before powering a header wide three minutes before the break after he was picked out by a good cross from Azwan Saleh.

Wardun then did well to keep the scores level in the 44th minute when he reacted brilliantly to tip over a blistering freekick from Balestier captain Paul Cunningham, but it was his gaffe a minute later that allowed the hosts to take the lead.

From the resultant corner, Park delivered an inswinger that caught the DPMM custodian completely by surprise, and, under the slightest of pressure from Kim, he allowed it to sail over him and nestle in the back of the net.

Five minutes after the restart, Sim did well to avoid a similar fate when he punched clear a dangerous delivery from Azwan, but seven minutes later, the visitors did equalise in a parallel fashion. From just inside the Balestier half, Jerkovic floated in a freekick that somehow managed to find its way past the Tigers keeper, who was perhaps slightly distracted by Subhi Abdilah's attempt to get a touch on it.

DPMM did however threaten to undo their good work a minute after the hour mark when Tales Dos Santos and Helmi Zambin got into each other's way just outside their own area, allowing Zulkiffli to race through on goal. The Tigers winger cleverly slipped the ball past Wardun before going down in the box, although referee Mohd Yazeen was unmoved and signalled for play to continue.

Cunningham, who looked dangerous from set pieces all evening long, came close in the 73rd minute when he nodded an effort narrowly wide after rising high to meet a Jaslee Hatta delivery, but a minute later, DPMM went ahead with a touch of fortune.

An unfortunate slip from Jaslee allowed Osman to latch onto a long ball and race through on goal, and while Sim was quick off his line, the Wasps striker was alert to his presence and prodded the ball past him, before tapping into an unguarded net to give his side the lead.

Desperate to rescue at least a point from the game, Stewart not only threw Cunningham up forward in a bid to add some height to his attack, but also brought on reinforcements in the form of a half-fit Tengku Mushadad and Andrew Tan.

Nonetheless, DPMM held firm at the back before going on to wrap up the three points at the death when Osman led a rapid counter-attack and ran half the length of the field, before drilling in a low shot that was well parried by Sim. Fortunately for the hosts, the rebound fell to the onrushing Jerkovic, who made no mistake from a tight angle 12 yards out.

With the victory, Simunic's charges ensured they will enter the mid-season break top of the table, and are already eight points clear of title rivals Balestier.

Balestier Khalsa: Joey Sim, Yusiskandar Yusop, Jaslee Hatta, Paul Cunningham, Syed Thaha, Muhaymin Salim (Tengku Mushadad 79'), Park Kang-jin, Hamqaamal Shah, Zulkiffli Hassim, Chang Jo-yoon (Patrick Paranjody 61'), Kim Min-ho (Andrew Tan 79').

DPMM FC: Wardun Yussof, Subhi Abdilah (Pg Sallehuddin Damit 90'), Tales Dos Santos, Sairol Sahari, Helmi Zambin, Rosmin Kamis, Ivan Jerkovic, Azwan Saleh, Shahrazen Said, Basiru Osman (Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman 90'), Rodrigo Gral (Awangku Fakharazzi 46').

Attendance: 552



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