Korean duo lead classy Rams past Balestier

Woodlands Wellington saw off Balestier Khalsa 3-1 in Thursday’s Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League game, thanks to strikes from Moon Soon-ho and Chang Jo-yoon.

Atsushi Shimono, Woodlands Wellington
Alison Chin

By Alison Chin

Reporting from Woodlands Stadium

Going ahead courtesy of a volley from Moon in what was the first attack of the game, the Rams went 2-0 up when the former Super Reds forward capped an attacking move with a clinical finish in the 29th minute.

Although Balestier attempted to mount a comeback during the second period, Chang's thunderous strike extended Woodlands' lead further, before Rams substitute Hidhir Hasbiallah gifted the Tigers a consolation minutes before the full-time whistle.

Balestier were made to pay for poor finishing in their previous game against Albirex Niigata (S), but team manager Kevin Wee, taking the charge in Darren Stewart's absence, kept faith with attackers Park Kang-jin and Qiu Li for the visit to Woodlands Stadium. 

Meanwhile, Salim Moin was forced to turn to Shahril Alias after defensive stalwart Shariff Samat was dismissed during their weekend defeat to Tampines Rovers, as he sought to extend his former club's losing run.

Salim did not have to wait long to see Balestier fall behind, with the Rams seizing the advantage in the fourth minute. Brazenly taking on Hamqaamal Shah and Obadin Aikhena in quick succession down the left of the six yard box, Chang got past the Tigers duo to square a low cross for an unmarked Moon Soon-ho to volley home from close range.

Tengku Mushadad could have levelled proceedings for Balestier in the 10th minute when he rose above a sea of white to connect with Hamqaamal's corner, only for his header to come agonizingly off Yazid Yasin's post.

Six minutes later, Moon almost doubled his tally when he out-turned Park in front of the penalty area, but his long-range shot lacked the accuracy needed to trouble Zaiful Nizam. However, the 32-year old made sure not to squander his next opportunity.

Moon placed himself on the shoulder of the Balestier defence and was picked out comfortably by an Atsushi Shimono through ball in the 29th minute, with just Zaiful to beat. The Rams attacker then slotted the ball comfortably into the bottom left-hand corner to extend his team's advantage.  

Going two behind roused the Tigers from their slumber, as they began to attack at a frantic pace. Eight minutes after Moon's second of the night, Kim Min-ho was certain he had given Balestier a lifeline when Yazid failed to get to his headed attempt, but Rosman Sulaiman saved his goalkeeper's blushes with a heroic header off the line.

Tigers set-piece specialist Qiu was next to come close with a free kick from the edge of the penalty area just two minutes later, but Yazid proved equal to his left-foot curler. The Singapore international aimed the resultant corner toward substitute Jung Hee-bong, forcing Yazid to leave the safety of his line to ensure Woodlands' two-goal cushion remained intact at the break.

Balestier wasted no time in resuming their attacking rhythm in the second period, carving out their first opportunity in the 48th minute. Lacklustre defending from the Rams allowed Kim to pick up the ball in the danger area, but Korean's shot went the wrong side of the post.

Sensing a chance to get back into the game, Wee gave attacker Ruhaizad Ismail a run-out before the hour mark and the winger found himself in the thick of things just four minutes after. Picked out on the edge of the six yard box by a long pass from Syed Thaha, Ruhaizad shrugged off the attention of the Woodlands defence before cutting the ball across the face of goal, winning a corner in the process. Moments after, the Singaporean's set-piece came off the underside of cross-bar and fell into the path of team-mate Qiu, who could not make his close-range opportunity count.

Although momentum was lodged firmly in the hands of Balestier, it was the home support that erupted in cheers in the 72nd minute. In a brilliant display of vision by marquee man Khalid Hamdaoui, Rams attacker Chang was delivered the ball with acres of space to exploit down the left of the penalty area. His first attempt cannoned off the cross-bar, but the Korean was gifted another opportunity after some poor defending from the opposition and he rifled the ball into the top corner.  

Just 10 minutes later, Chang was at it again, thrilling the Woodlands fans with a bevy of step-overs to wrong-foot the Tigers defence before firing a thunderous shot from just inside the penalty area. However, Zaiful was wise to the attacker's style this time.

With Balestier almost certain of finishing the game empty-handed, Ruhaizad managed to set up a consolation for Stewart's team seven minutes before the full-time whistle, as his free kick toward the far post was fortuitously turned in by Rams substitute Hidhir Hasbiallah.

The victory for Woodlands sees them displace DPMM FC in fifth place, while Balestier remain in eighth.

Woodlands Wellington: Yazid Yasin, Cho Sung-hwan (Hidhir Hasbiallah 45'), Shahril Alias, Rosman Sulaiman, Ang Zhiwei, Armanizam Dolah, Atsushi Shimono, Farizal Basri (Fadhil Noh 70'), Chang Jo-yoon, Moon Soon-ho, Khalid Hamdaoui (Ridhwan Osman 90').

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Yusiskandar Yusop (Poh Yi Feng 75'), Obadin Aikhena, Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha, Tengku Mushadad, Kim Min-ho, Park Kang-jin, Hamqaamal Shah (Jung Hee-bong 33'), Zulkiffli Hassim (Ruhaizad Ismail 56'), Qiu Li.

Attendance: 1,020

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