Tigers keep up good form with SAFFC draw

Balestier Khalsa made it five games in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League without defeat on Thursday after playing out a 0-0 draw with SAFFC.

Ruhaizad about to pull the trigger...

By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium

In a fairly even game that saw both sides create a fair share of openings, Warriors striker Fazrul Nawaz missed arguably the best chance of the match six minutes after the break when he sent a free header from six yards wide.

Balestier also had an excellent chance to grab a winner in the 76th minute when substitute Andrew Tan was sent racing through on goal, but he could only send a lob over as both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.

However, the result means the Tigers have now gone their last five league games unbeaten, and came off the back of last week's impressive 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata.

While Darren Stewart's men had done extremely well to see off the White Swans at the weekend despite playing just under an hour with a man down, the victory came at a price as both captain Paul Cunningham and midfield general Park Kang-jin picked up cautions that saw them suspended for Thursday's game, along with winger Zulkiffli Hassim who was sent off.

That meant a total of six first-teamers, including experienced defender Jaslee Hatta and midfielder Ridwan Jamil, were absent from the Balestier line-up, although it did allow Stewart to hand starting berths to promising Prime League duo Helmi Mazlan and Suria Prakash.

Eight minutes in, Cunningham's absence almost proved costly as his replacement in the heart of defence, Yusiskandar Yusop, failed to pick up the run of Marin Jonjic, who looked set to latch onto a deft through-ball by Mislav Karoglan and sneak in through on goal. Fortunately for the visitors, Zakariah Nerani was alert to the danger and smothered well and the winger's feet.

Ten minutes later, the Tigers custodian was called into action once again when Fazrul found space down the right and made his way past Yusiskandar, although his left-footed snapshot was confidently gathered by Zakariah.

Despite both sides enjoying an even share of possession, SAFFC were certainly finding more joy in their attacking third early on, and had another chance in the 29th minute when Karoglan screwed a low shot wide after Fazrul had neatly slid the ball into his path.

Nonetheless, it was Balestier who came closest to scoring six minutes later when Kim Min-ho floated a lovely ball in behind the hosts' defence, only for the rampaging Ruhaizad Ismail to fire just past the far post.

With Suria struggling to make any sort of impact, Stewart decided to bring on Patrick Paranjody eight minutes before the break, and shortly after coming on, he nearly made an instant impact when he narrowly failed to reach a cross-cum-shot from Hamqaamal Shah, who had done well to force his way down the left and into the opposition area.

Six minutes into the second half, Fazrul then wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring when he sent a free header from inside the six-yard box wide, after Tatsuro Inuio had delivered the perfect cross to the back post.

With the Warriors strikers looking increasingly out of sorts, midfielder Shukor Zailan, who had scored a cracking volley in their last game against Woodlands Wellington, then took it upon himself to threaten the opposition goal.

First, he fired in a 25-yard drive in the 61st minute that smashed into Goran Subara, although referee Leow Thiam Hoe waved away the hosts' protests for handball. 12 minutes later, Shukor let fly from distance again and this time his piledriver looked like it was heading straight for the top corner, only for Zakariah to claw it away at the last moment with a fantastic flying save.

14 minutes from time, Balestier then had their golden opportunity to edge ahead when Kim bravely went in for a header on the edge of the box and nodded the ball on to Tan, but with only Shahril Jantan to beat, the 25-year-old inexplicably sent his lob way over.

With time running out, SAFFC mustered one final effort to grab a winner and having replaced the misfiring Fazrul with Erwan Gunawan, Warriors boss coach Richard Bok must have thought he had made an inspired switch after a long-range drive from Inui deflected straight to the substitute, who had taken up a good position inside the area. However, he could only watch as Gunawan completely missed the ball despite having a clear aim for goal, wasting the last chance to steal the points for his side.

SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Ruzaini Zainal, Eddie Chang, Daniel Bennett, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Marin Jonjic (Hafsyar Farkhan 85'), Noh Rahman, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Fazrul Nawaz (Erwan Gunawan 72'), Mislav Karoglan.

Balestier Khalsa: Zakariah Nerani, Helmi Mazlan (Andrew Tan 68'), Yusiskandar Yusop, Goran Subara, Syed Thaha, Ruhaizad Ismail, Shafuan Sutohmoh (Rahim As'ari 90'), Tengku Mushadad, Hamqaamal Shah, Kim Min-ho, Suria Prakash (Patrick Paranjody 37').

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