Balestier Khalsa conjured a stunning performance to shock Home United and claim a come-from-behind 2-1 win at the National Stadium on Saturday night to go second in the Singapore Premier League.
The Tigers will hold that spot for at least 24 hours, until Tampines Rovers FC take on Albirex Niigata FC (S) at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday night.
As soon as the game began, Balestier were rocked by an early setback, with Sharin Majid pulling up injured in the fourth minute and he had to be substituted by Ahmad Syahir.
Things then took a turn for the worse five minutes later, as Song Ui-young played Hafiz Nor through and the 30-year-old prodded the ball past Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam to open the scoring.
It should have been 2-0 at the 15-minute mark when Hafiz made his way into the box and his cut-back found Sirina Camara but the Frenchman contrived to blaze over from close range.
The Tigers were not without their chances though, with Home goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah required to race out and make a vital clearance to prevent Hazzuwan Halim from latching onto Vedran Mesec’s lob in the 26th minute.
Huzaifah Aziz also drew a save from Rudy with his free-kick in the 36th minute, while Mesec presented the Protectors with a moment of danger just before the break as his attempt flashed past the post.
The match continued in the same scrappy manner in the second half, but there were still plenty of chances and the game could still have gone either way.
In the 50th minute, Hazzuwan found himself unmarked in the danger area but he contrived to shoot straight at Rudy as the chance went begging.
Home were next to come close three minutes later, as Faizal Roslan rose highest to meet Izzdin Shafiq’s corner but Zaiful proved equal to his header and palmed the ball away.
Desperate to get back into the game, Balestier threw on a half-fit Keegan Linderboom in the 69th minute and he nearly made an instant impact with his flick off Huzaifah Aziz’s corner going just wide.
Faizal would then see another header stopped on the line by Zaiful, before Linderboom sent an attempt of his own just over at the other end.
In the 83rd minute, Home had a great opportunity to double their lead as they went on the counter and Song managed to find an overlapping Hafiz in the box but the latter’s shot was tame and straight at Zaiful.
They would rue that miss four minute later, as Mesec managed to find space from distance to squeeze the ball into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 despite the sea of bodies in front of him.
They were then dealt another blow in injury time, with Huzaifah grabbing a late winner as he beat three players before drilling a shot past Rudy.
There was to be more drama towards the end of the game, after Akid Noor brought down M. Anumanthan and sparked off a confrontation between both sides.
This resulted in Anu and Nurullah being cautioned and they were sent off for receiving their second yellows.
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “Playing in the National Stadium, what I mentioned is pride to everybody, not every day you get a chance to play in a beautiful stadium and playing here was a good experience. These boys are amazing, I am really proud of them. Keegan (Linderboom) never trained yesterday because of the weather and I was asking if he was ready because it was our last change but he said he can do it and he helped us a lot. His presence in the opponents’ penalty box was precious.”
Home United Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “It was a very tough game, we knew that Balestier are a very hard working team and they will never give up. Their two foreigners gave us problems but we had a good chance to kill it off when Hafiz had that open chance. The boys tried very hard, they tried to get that second goal but Balestier keeper did very well and the defenders too, they tried to stop all our attacks. Just not our luck today, the ball just didn’t want to go in.”
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Fadli Kamis, Shaqi Sulaiman (Nurullah Hussein 56’), Sufianto Salleh, Afiq Salman Tan (Keegan Linderboom 69’), Huzaifah Aziz, Muhammad Sharin Majid (Ahmad Syahir 4’) Vedran Mesec, Nurisham Jupri, Noor Akid Nordin, Hazzuwan Halim
Home United: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Faritz Hameed, Sirina Camara, M. Anumanthan, Izzdin Shafiq (C), Arshad Shamim (Amiruldin Asraf 90’), Hafiz Nor (Christopher Van Huizen 86’), Song Uiyoung, Iqram Rifqi (Amy Recha 64’)