Irfan Najeeb’s first Singapore Premier League goal was enough to give Tampines Rovers a 1-0 win at home to Balestier Khalsa on Wednesday.
Balestier Khalsa FC saw their four-match unbeaten run in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League come to a screeching halt after they fell 1-0 to Tampines Rovers FC at Our Tampines Hub on Wednesday night.
After a goal-less opening 45, youngster Irfan Najeeb’s header in the second-half was enough for Tampines to leapfrog Balestier into second in the standings on goal difference and return to winning ways.
Fresh from a 2-1 win over Warriors FC on Sunday, the visitors began the match confidently with the makeshift centre-back pairing of Sufianto Salleh and Shaqi Sulaiman doing well to stifle the Tampines attackers as they were hardly afforded any time and space on the ball.
However, the opening exchanges proved to be a cagey affair with clear chances few and far between.
Jordan Webb cut in for a shot that flew harmlessly over the bar on 17 minutes, before Vedran Mesec fired a tame shot straight at Tampines custodian Syazwan Buhari in the 34th minute.
The hosts should have gone ahead with arguably the best chance of the half eight minutes before the break. Leaving his marker for dead down the left, Webb put in a cross which was flicked on by Shameer Aziq to Ryutaro Megumi who volleyed over from inside the box.
Tampines Rovers Football Club claimed a slim 1-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa Football Club in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League at Our Tampines Hub on Wednesday night.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Wednesday, 2 May 2018
The deadlock was eventually broken four minutes after the restart, with Safirul Sulaiman delivering a pinpoint cross for an unmarked Irfan to nod past Zaiful Nizam at the far post for his first league goal.
Balestier refused to be cowed and could have levelled matters in the 55th minute. Hazzuwan Halim was sent through on goal by teammate Mesec but the 2017 Young Player of the Year contrived to poke wide at Syazwan’s near post.
Hazzuwan would come close again in the 64th minute when he latched onto a punt by Zaiful and looked odds-on to score, only to blaze over under pressure by Syazwan.
Tampines then had opportunities to seal the game thereafter as Webb thumped over from Yasir Hanapi’s corner on 71 minutes before substitute Fazrul Nawaz found the side-netting six minutes from time.
Ultimately, it was Juergen Raab’s side who hung on for all three points and will next host Home United FC on Saturday, May 12 while Balestier – who slipped a place to third – will be seeking to bounce back when they face Brunei DPMM FC at Toa Payoh a day later.
Tampines Head Coach Juergen Raab: “It was expected that this was going to be a difficult game against a team known for their good defending. Although the second half was better, we didn’t look too fresh and was slow in moving the ball. What was most important was that we got the goal required for us to win the game.
“Irfan has the skills and I’m sure he can develop but sometimes he is still prone to the easy mistakes and we have to live with that because he’s young and still learning. I’m happy he scored today after I pushed him further up into midfield and he showed he can do well there, popping up with the all-important goal as well.”
Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “I was very, very satisfied with the boys, most of them are playing in the SPL for the first time and I’m proud of what they have shown. We kept possession (of the ball) well today and didn’t allow Tampines too much space although we couldn’t find the goal we wanted.
“The turning point of the game was not exactly the injury to Keegan (Linderboom) but instead, the two misses by Hazzuwan. For the goal (we conceded), it was a quality cross from Safirul who has a good left foot and an equally good goal scored by Tampines.”
Tampines: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Irfan Najeeb, Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Daniel Bennett, Shameer Aziq, Amirul Adli (Madhu Mohana 90’), Yasir Hanapi, Safirul Sulaiman (Zulfadhmi Suzliman 71’), Ryutaro Megumi, Jordan Webb, Khairul Amri (Fazrul Nawaz 63’)
Balestier: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman, Sufianto Salleh (Khalili Khalif 85’), Ahmad Syahir, Fariz Faizal (Akbar Shah Zainudeen 73’), Huzaifah Aziz, Vedran Mesec, Afiq Salman Tan, Hazzuwan Halim, Keegan Linderboom (Khairuddin Omar 46’)