By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium
In a game the Tigers were mainly in control of but struggled to put away their chances, Kim Min-ho popped up in injury-time and fired home a winner to ensure his side will return to Great Eastern-YEO's S.League action on a high in two weeks' time.
After defeats to Albirex Niigata and Geylang United in the group stages ended their hopes of League Cup glory, Balestier were consigned to play in the plate competition, where they got back to winning ways on Monday with a 2-0 win over Woodlands Wellington in the semi-finals.
Having revealed his main focus in the competition was to experiment with his side ahead of the resumption of their league campaign, Tigers coach Darren Stewart opted to give third-choice goalkeeper Daniel Ong another chance to prove his worth, and made three changes to his starting XI by bringing Tengku Mushadad, Syed Thaha and Kim in for Shafuan Sutohmoh, Hamqaamal Shah and Patrick Paranjody.
And it was them who got off to a brighter start, creating the first real chance after just six minutes when Ruhaizad Ismail found space in the box after a neat one-two with Park Kang-jin, but the winger opted to go for the shot from a tight angle and ended up blazing over.
Two minutes later, Balestier should have gone ahead when Ruhaizad once again broke free down the right and drilled in a low cross that was missed at the near post by Kim. However, the ball fell straight to Zulkiffli Hassim who sent a shot goalwards, only to see Faritz Hameed save a certain goal by clearing off the line.
Zulkiffli then had another good chance ten minutes later when he was sent racing down the left by a slide-rule pass from Zdravko Dragicevic but he failed to hit the target on this occasion, before Paul Cunningham forced a good save from Syazwan Buhari in the 26th minute with a powerful header from a Tengku Mushadad freekick.
However, the Tigers were then handed a blow right after the half-hour mark when Cunningham had to be replaced after a collision with Sirina Camara, and his absence was immediately felt as Young Lions began to look more dangerous in their attacking third.
First, Benjamin Kristofferson Lee found space on the edge of the area fired in a left-footed effort that was bravely blocked by Ruhaizad, before Fazli Ayob tried his luck from 30 yards in the 41st minute with a strike that looked set to dip in just under the crossbar until a timely intervention from Ong.
Still, Balestier continued to dominate proceedings and they wasted another good chance to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime when Kim could only lash an effort wide, after Dragicevic had flicked a long ball by Jaslee Hatta into his path.
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Four minutes into the second half, it was then Young Lions' turn to miss a golden opportunity after Sherif El-Masri sent a corner straight onto the head of Jonathan Toto, only for the Frenchman to direct his header into the ground and back over the crossbar from eight yards out.
El-Masri, who has been the provider of many goals for Robin Chitrakar's side this season, then sent in another dangerous delivery in the 63rd minute but on this occasion, Jaslee was alert to the danger and got in ahead of Toto to head clear, before Faritz had to do the same at the other end after Syazwan flapped at a cross from Kim.
And as the game wound to a close, it began to look as it penalties would be needed to decide the contest as both sides struggled to carve out any clear-cut openings.
Nonetheless, as they clock ticked over into injury-time, Balestier ensured the lottery of the shootout would be avoided when Park won possession inside the Young Lions half and threaded a pass down the left to substitute Hamqaamal, who proceeded to swing in a perfect first-time ball into the path of Kim to sweep home into the far corner.
Courts Young Lions: Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Sirina Camara, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Benjamin Kristofferson Lee (Nazrul Nazari 82'), Fazli Ayob, Zulfahmi Arifin, Sherif El-Masri (Faris Ramli 74'), Shahfiq Ghani, Jonathan Toto.
Balestier Khalsa: Daniel Ong, Poh Yi Feng, Jaslee Hatta, Paul Cunningham (Yusiskandar Yusop 32'), Syed Thaha, Ruhaizad Ismail, Park Kang-jin, Tengku Mushadad, Zulkiffli Hassim (Hamqaamal Shah 77'), Zdravko Dragicevic (Shafuan Sutohmoh 73'), Kim Min-ho.