10-man Balestier escape with Eagles draw

Balestier Khalsa held Geylang International to a 2-2 draw in Thursday’s Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League game, despite playing with 10 men for a portion of the second period.

Kaplan blasts home a late equaliser!
Alison Chin

By Alison Chin

Reporting from Bedok Stadium

Tigers captain Paul Cunningham lead the way for his team by opening the scoring after some lacklustre defending from the home side and striker Kim Min-ho doubled their advantage before half-time.

However, a relentless Geylang side chipped away at Balestier's lead in the second period.  Wahyudi Wahid struck in the 57th minute to keep his side in the game, before Jozef Kaplan seized a late equalizer to ensure V. Kanan's men a share of the spoils.

The Eagles came undone against defending champions Tampines Rovers in their previous encounter, but stood a better chance of picking up three points against a depleted Balestier side this time round. Darren Stewart was missing the services of key duo Qiu Li and Park Kang-jin to suspension, so the Tigers head coach turned to Jung Hee-bong and Kim to test Geylang goalkeeper Takuma Ito.

Nonetheless, it was Ito's opposite number, Zaiful Nizam, who found his goalmouth under threat during the early encounters. Eagles skipper Kaplan was his usual energetic self, getting past Ridwan Jamil with ease on the right of the penalty box to cut an incisive pass across the face of the danger area for Taufiq Ghani in the sixth minute, forcing a hurried clearance from the Balestier defence before Taufiq could have a go.

Geylang were left to rue their failure to carve out an opening goal, when Balestier drew first blood in the 17th minute. A cross from the right flank courtesy of Ruhaizad Ismail was met by the head of Cunningham after a majestic leap by the Tigers skipper, leaving Ito with no chance to keep his clean sheet intact.

Stewart's decision to field Cunningham upfront instead of the New Zealander's usual role in defence already paid dividends, and Cunningham came close again seven minutes after his opener when team-mate Poh Yi Feng curled a delivery close to the Eagles goalmouth. Ito was forced to scramble off his line to collect just before the 26-year old could get a touch to send it home.

One minute before the half-hour mark, Wahyudi weaved a bit of magic of his own as he attempted to get Geylang back into the game. The Eagles striker mazed his way through a sea of red shirts before he took a whizzing shot toward the Balestier goal that tested Zaiful's reflexes as the custodian tipped the ball away.

For all their tireless running, Geylang could not find the equalizer and seven minutes later they were further behind. Tigers forward Jung carried the ball up-field in a quick counter attack, before laying it off for compatriot Kim midway into the attacking half. With the Eagles defence opting to sit deep, the 21-year old fired a powerful shot from distance to double his team's advantage.

In the 43rd minute, Geylang came close to conceding once more, this time in an identical fashion to the game's opener when they allowed Cunningham free reign during another set-piece, but were let off after the Balestier captain headed his effort over the bar.

Staring defeat in the face, Geylang began the second period with goals on their mind, and in the 57th minute they were given a lifeline. The conscientious Wahyudi ghosted past the Tigers defence to meet Khairulnizam Jumahat's cross at the near post, hitting it home first time to keep his team in contention.

However, after Wahyudi's strike, the Eagles almost let in two more in the short span of seven minutes. First, a wayward volley attempt from Ruhaizad, who picked up the ball on the outskirts of the penalty area after a disappointing clearance from the Geylang defence, before Cunningham outmanoeuvred Khairulnizam down the left to send in a low cross for Jung that forced a last-ditch tackle out of Norihiro Kawakami.

With just one goal separating the two sides, Ridwan did his team no favours by picking up a second yellow card in the 75th minute after committing a series of late tackles on Eagles attackers. Kanan's side nearly got back on equal footing from the free kick conceded by the Balestier player when Khairulnizam's set-piece made its way past all the bodies in the box, only for Zaiful to pull-off a fingertip save.

Just three minutes later, it was Ruhaizad Ismail who was left hanging his head in disappointment. The Tigers attacker had done well to nick the ball off an unsteady Delwinder Singh, but fired his shot past Ito's right-hand post with just the keeper to beat.

Ruhaizad's miss proved costly five minutes from the final whistle as Geylang pulled level, much to delirium of the home support. The Eagles captain had run himself into the ground throughout the game and got his reward when Balestier substitute Shafuan Sutomoh was slow to clear his lines, allowing Kaplan to volley home the equalizer.

Although Geylang rallied behind Kaplan in the last few minutes, a match winner was not forthcoming, forcing both sides to share the spoils at Bedok Stadium.

Geylang International: Takuma Ito, Khairulnizam Jumahat, Duncan Elias, Norihiro Kawakami, Delwinder Singh, Nurhazwan Norasikin (Basil Teo 46'), Fabian Kwok, Taufiq Ghani (Ahmad Khidir 82'), Jalal (Andrew Tan 46'), Jozef Kaplan, Wahyudi Wahid

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Paul Cunningham, Obadin Aikhena, Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha, Ridwan Jamil, Kim Min-ho, Zulkiffli Hassim, Ruhaizad Ismail (Hamqaamal Shah 62'), Poh Yi Feng (Yusiskandar Yusop 62'), Jung Hee-bong (Shafuan Sutohmoh 73').

Image courtesy of VOXSPORTS (Darren Ho)

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