Warriors woes continue with Balestier defeat

Warriors FC's miserable season continued on Sunday as they fell to a 2-0 defeat at Balestier Khalsa in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League.

Ruhaizad breaks through to open the scoring!
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Toa Payoh Stadium

Ruhaizad Ismail opened the scoring after seven minutes to hand his side a dream start, before Park Kang-jin added a second just before halftime to wrap up the three points and cap off a dominant display by the Tigers.

The result also consigned the Warriors to their fifth defeat in seven games in 2013, which include losses in the AFC Cup to Semen Padang and Kitchee, but the manner in which they were easily brushed aside by their opponents will be of concern to coach V. Selvaraj.

Their cause on Sunday was certainly not helped by the suspension of centre-back Marin Vidosevic, who was sent off against Tampines earlier in the week, while marquee signing Kazuyuki Toda, along with defenders Zulfadli Zainal Abidin and Syed Fadhil also missed out through injury.

Still, Selvaraj was able to name a strong side boasting the likes of Singapore internationals Daniel Bennett, Erwan Gunawan and Shi Jiayi, as well as foreign trio Mislav Karoglan, Shimpei Sakurada and Tatsuro Inui, but they struggled to get to grips with the game early on as Balestier started the brighter of the two teams.

And it took the hosts just seven minutes to take the lead with a brilliantly-worked move; Qiu Li flicking a header on to Jung Hee-bong, who played a neat reverse pass into the path of the rampaging Ruhaizad Ismail. Taking the ball into his stride, the winger headed straight for goal and did well to hold off a challenge before coolly slotting past Hassan Sunny.

Five minutes later, Balestier carved open the opposition defence once more when Qiu delivered an incisive ball down the left to release Park, who immediately floated a cross to waiting Kim Min-ho at the far post. However, Hassan was equal to the task on this occasion and produced a flying save to keep out the South Korean's bullet header.

Although they were looking lethargic in all areas of the park, the Warriors' undeniable quality meant they were always a threat and they were unlucky not to equalise in the 27th minute when Inui found space down the left and whipped in cross to Karoglan, only for the usually-prolific striker to send his header back off the bar.

The Tigers were then dealt a blow four minutes after the half-hour mark when Qiu took a heavy knock to his ankle and had to be replaced by Zulkiffli Hassim, but they seemed unaffected by his departure. Three minutes later, Hassan once again came to the visitors' rescue when he produced a brilliant reflex save to deny Park, after the midfielder had burst into the box and met a neat pass by Kim with a firm first-time volley.

But right on the stroke of halftime, Park duly doubled Balestier's lead when he picked up possession on the left side of the box and drilled in a low shot that squirmed under Hassan's body and trickled into the bottom corner.

Despite now being in possession of a comfortable lead, the Tigers continued to look the more adventurous of the teams after the break and they came close to adding a third in the 57th minute when Yusiskandar Yusop's mishit cross ended up heading straight for the top corner, and required Hassan to tip it over the bar.

In contrast, the Warriors continued to struggle to create a clear-cut opening and were largely restricted to shots from distance; Shi trying his luck a minute later with a 25-yard drive that was straight at Zaiful.

A key reason why the visitors were failing to break down their opponents was due to the presence of Obadin Aikhena, who was heading away everything that entered the Balestier box, but the Nigerian nearly made an impact at the other end in the 63rd minute when he met a freekick from Tengku Mushadad but just failed to keep his shot on target.

Eight minutes later, substitute Patrick Paran was next to come close to extending the Tigers' lead as he raced onto a pass by Park in a sweeping counterattack and went on a 40-yard burst down the right, before blasting a powerful shot straight at Hassan.

But as the game entered its closing stages, the Warriors remained unable to really create any openings to threaten the opposition, allowing the hosts to hold on for a well-deserved win that sees them move ahead of Home United in fourth spot on the table.

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Yusiskandar Yusop, Obadin Aikhena, Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha, Kim Min-ho (Shafuan Sutohmoh 86'), Tengku Mushadad, Park Kang-jin, Ruhaizad Ismail (Patrick Paran 52'), Qiu Li (Zulkiffli Hassim 34'), Jung Hee-bong.

Warriors FC: Hassan Sunny, Ruzaini Zainal (Shukor Zailan 79'), Abdil Qaiyyim, Daniel Bennett, Syaiful Iskandar, Prakash Manikam (Sufian Anuar 46'), Shi Jiayi, Shimpei Sakurada, Tatsuro Inui, Erwan Gunawan (Matthew Abraham 85'), Mislav Karoglan.

Attendance: 726

Image courtesy of Balestier Khalsa FC (Andrew Lim)

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