Balestier Khalsa snatch fifth win of the season against Young Lions

Balestier Khalsa moved up to third place in the Singapore Premier League after their fifth victory of the season against Young Lions on Sunday night.

Balestier Khalsa won for the first time in three Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) games after defeating Young Lions 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday.

Huzaifah Aziz and substitute Akbar Shah Zainudeen scored in either half to give the Tigers three valuable points, and the result saw them leapfrog Home United into third place in the league standings.

It was a scrappy affair throughout, with both sides unable to hold onto the ball for extended periods. However, Balestier looked more threatening whenever they went on the attack.

But it was the Young Lions who had the first real chance of the game early on. Yet, Naqiuddin Eunos scuffed his shot when Irfan Fandi played a superb ball out from the back.

Brilliant defending in the 33th minute from Adam Hakeem then prevented Keegan Linderboom from finding the net after the striker was sent through by a superb pass from Fariz Faizal.

Balestier found the breakthrough just two minutes before the break, after a blunder from Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad. The 21-year-old failed to collect Hazzuwan Halim’s delivery from a corner and the ball came out nicely for Huzaifah, who smashed in a powerful effort into the net through a sea of bodies.

It took until the 62nd minute before either team had a chance again, but a poor first touch from Haiqal Pashia meant that an opportunity to equalise for the Young Lions went begging after Zulqarnaen Suzliman picked him out with sweet cross.

The hosts suffered a blow in the 65th minute, after Ikhsan Fandi – the team’s top scorer – had to be replaced in the 65th minute in what appeared to be a twisted ankle.

Irfan was then pushed up front, and that would go on to cost Young Lions any hope of making a comeback in the 78th minute.

Vedran Mesec outjumped three Young Lions defenders to nod on a long ball towards the unmarked Akbar, who came on just three minutes earlier. The forward made no mistake with his finish to make it 2-0, securing the points for the Tigers.

The Young Lions would continue pushing late on, but they never came close to troubling Zaiful Nizam in the Balestier goal – ensuring that their winless streak would extend to six games.

Balestier Khalsa will take on Hougang United next on 17 June at the Toa Payoh Stadium, while the Young Lions will take on Brunei DPMM at the Jalan Besar Stadium a day later.

Balestier head coach Marko Kraljevic: “Happy with result, happy clean sheet, happy with three points. So far, we changed the defence quite a bit because of some injury, some reschedule matches, and also tiredness, thus we always give away easy goals … today we defended well from the front.

“He (Akbar Shah) was a bit upset at not getting his chance last game, this game he was happy that I gave him a chance and he scored. It’s good for him, he’s always working very hard.

“Every team is very close, winning two or three games and you’re in top three. It’s very important to win todayafter two defeats – this is more about mental strength. We will prepare ourselves against Hougang, look at it game by game,  – it’s very tight. I’m not thinking about the standings just yet.”

Young Lions head coach Fandi Ahmad: “Another frustrating night for us again. They stuck to their plan, just pump the ball. We had problems with that. We made the same mistakes with marking, ball watching. We had players with height to stop the long ball, it’s about commitment and concentration. We told them, one to pick up (the targetman), one to mark the space – the guy (Akbar Shah) was free because everybody tried to attack the ball. It’s a mistake, they are young, but they are repeating the mistakes and it’s very frustrating. You have to learn and pick up. It’s not easy for young players.

“At least now we have a break.Players haven’t got off since they came back from Brunei. We will give players a break for Hari Raya before returning to training on the 17th. I hope they will have a good rest and come back with renewed focus.”

Young Lions: Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Adam Hakeem, Naqiuddin Ahmad (R Aaravin 57′), Joshua Pereira, Ikhsan Fandi (Amer Hakeem 65′), Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Syahrul Sazali, Hami Syahin, Irfan Fandi (C), Naufal Azman, Haiqal Pashia (Ifwat Ismail 72′)

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Khalili Khalif, Hazzuwan Halim (Nurisham Jupri 85′), Huzaifah Aziz, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fariz Faizal (Afiq Salman Tan 72′), Ahmad Syahir, Keegan Linderboom (Akbar Shah Zainudeen 75′), Vedran Mesec, Noor Akid Nordin