Qiu nets stunner in dominant Balestier win

A spectacular strike from Qiu Li sent Balestier Khalsa on their way to a dominant 3-1 win over Hougang United in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League on Monday.

Lau struggling to keep up with Qiu's pace...
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Toa Payoh Stadium

In a game at the Toa Payoh Stadium what was largely dominated by the hosts, they edged ahead in the 37th minute when Qiu scored with a fantastic 30-yard volley, before Kim Min-ho doubled their tally five minutes after the hour mark with an exquisite lob.

Vitor Borges then wrapped up the points in the 72nd minute when he scored from the penalty spot, although the visitors did manage to grab a consolation three minutes from time when substitute Shahir Hamzah nodded home from close range.

The result also saw Balestier continue their recent good form against the Cheetahs, following their penalty victory in the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals, as well as a 3-1 league win earlier in the season.

Having played each other twice in the past fortnight in cup competition, both sides were certainly familiar with one another entering Monday's encounter.

However, it was the Tigers who started the brighter and they could have opened the scoring after just three minutes when Jaslee Hatta floated a freekick from the halfway line into the box, allowing Borges to flick a header towards goal that drew a fine save from Fadhil Salim.

Six minutes later, the Hougang custodian was called into action once again when he reacted well to prevent Igor Cerina from scoring an own-goal, after the Croat miscued his attempted clearance and almost lobbed his team-mate.

Balestier were really threatening early on and had another chance in the 23rd minute when Qiu raced onto a neat ball by Ridwan Jamil and played a first-time cross in search of Borges, but Fadhil was alert to the danger and gathered before the Brazilian could pounce.

But eight minutes before the break, the hosts finally broke the deadlock through a moment of sheer genius from Qiu, who brought down Zaiful Nizam's goalkick sublimely on his chest, before sending a 30-yard volley looping over Fadhil and into the back of the net.

The goal was no less than they deserved following a dominant first-half display, but the Tigers showed no signs of letting up after the break and continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession.

And in the 65th minute, their lead was doubled when Kim was left in acres of space down the left and, having spotted Fadhil off his line, proceeded to send a sublime strike over the stranded goalkeeper and into the far corner.

Just six minutes later, the contest was all but over when Cerina could only catch Qiu inside the area with a last-ditch sliding tackle, allowing Borges to step up and emphatically sent the resultant penalty past the wrongfooted Fadhil.

By now, the Cheetahs were well and truly beaten but to their credit, they continued to press for a goal and got their reward in the 87th minute when Basit Hamid's outswinging corner was nodded by Thomas Beattie into the danger zone, where Shahir proceeded to head past Zaiful.

Nonetheless, it proved to be little more than a consolation as Balestier had done enough by then to claim all three points, which were enough to send them above Home United and Woodlands Wellington into fourth place.

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Tengku Mushadad, Obadin Aikhena, Jaslee Hatta, Hamqaamal Shah, Ridwan Jamil, Kim Min-ho, Park Kang-jin, Vitor Borges (Patrick Paran 78'), Zulkiffli Hassim (Ruhaizad Ismail 75'), Qiu Li (Shafuan Sutohmoh 90').

Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Lau Meng Meng, Syaqir Sulaiman (Shahir Hamzah 82'), Igor Cerina, Fazly Hasan, Nurhilmi Jasni (Basit Hamid 82'), Thomas Beattie, Azhar Sairudin, Jerome Baker, Sobrie Mazelan (Liam Shotton 67'), Mamadou Diallo.

Attendance: 553

Image courtesy of Balestier Khalsa FC (Andrew Lim)

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