Khairul Amri hat-trick as Tampines claim Balestier scalp in 7-goal thriller

Khairul Amri helped himself to a hat-trick as Tampines Rovers cruised past Balestier Khalsa in seven-goal thriller at Toa Payoh Stadium on Saturday.

Tampines Rovers saw off a decimated Balestier Khalsa FC 5-2 at Toa Payoh Stadium on Saturday evening in a Singapore Premier League (SPL) fixture.

Balestier found the back of the net through Hazzuwan Halim and Akbar Shah Zainudeen but goals from Irfan Najeeb, Jordan Webb and a hat-trick by Khairul Amri gave Tampines their win.

Missing the likes of foreign duo Keegan Linderboom and Vedran Mesec, many expected Balestier to struggle but it proved otherwise in this clash as they gave the second-placed Stags a run for their money.

Balestier had an early chance in the game, the ball falling for Akbar in the box right after kick off but he lashed wide from close range.

It proved to be a false dawn though, with Tampines enjoying the better chances and they deservedly took the lead in the ninth minute.

Irfan, who scored the winning goal in the reverse fixture in May, marked his return from injury to haunt the Tigers once again, sending a looping header off Yasir Hanapi’s corner into the top corner to open the scoring.

Five minutes later, the visitors came close again. This time, Webb was allowed to stab an effort at goal but Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam stood equal to the task.

However, against the run of play, Balestier found an equaliser in the 20th minute. Irfan turned from hero to villain after fouling Hazzuwan in the box and the latter sent his spot-kick into the bottom corner to level the scores.

But Balestier’s joy barely lasted six minutes as Tampines went ahead again. Amirul Adli lobbed a ball towards Jordan Webb and although his shot was parried away by Zaiful, the ball fell for Amri to tap into an empty goal.

In the second half, Tampines nearly increased their lead in the 52nd minute after a wonderful ball set Yasir free down the right and he was able to pick out Webb in the box. Unfortunately, the Canadian’s fierce drive came off the bar.

A minute later, the hosts threatened to equalise for the second time in the game. Hazzuwan played a clever pass to an unmarked Akbar and he tested Syazwan Buhari with a stinging shot which the goalkeeper push away.

The next goal came in the 70th minute, after Noor Akid Nordin took out Webb and conceded a free-kick. Yasir swung in the resulting free-kick and Amri was able to wriggle himself free before glancing the ball past Zaiful for his second of the night.

Balestier reduced the deficit seven minutes later, with Shah Shahiran losing the ball in his own half and Akbar immediately ran into the danger area before side-stepping Daniel Bennett to squeeze the ball home.

All hopes of a Balestier comeback ended in injury time though, after Sufianto Salleh lost the ball to Ryutaro Megumi and the winger teed Amri up for his hat-trick.

Tampines then placed the icing on the cake deep in injury time, with Webb grabbing a deserved goal as he drilled a shot past Zaiful to cap a good outing.

Tampines will host Brunei DPMM next on 4 July against Brunei DPMM FC while Balestier will get an extended break before taking on Home United on 15 July.

Balestier Khalsa FC Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “We played well but set pieces killed us. Our marking was not good. But you cannot say Tampines played an excellent game but they used the set pieces to kill us off and the last two minutes was us pushing and had nothing to lose, so they had space and individual players who can finish off the games and that made the difference.”

Tampines Rovers FC Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “If you follow all the results here in Toa Payoh, nobody normally wins with this height, five goals like we have done today. This team (Balestier) is very hard to play on this pitch. So after our quick lead we did not play with the necessary style. Ten minutes, all is open but the reaction from the team is very well. We controlled the match and always look to create attacks.”

Balestier Khalsa FC: Zaiful Nizam (GK) (C), Nurisham Jupri, Nurullah Hussein, Hazzuwan Halim, Sufianto Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Khairuddin Omar (Fariz Faizal 33’), Ahmad Syahir, Akbar Shah Zainudeen, Noor Akid Noordin (Daniel Hazreel 85’), Sanjin Vrebac

Tampines Rovers FC: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Fahrudin Mustafic (C), Amirul Adli, Ryutaro Megumi, Jordan Webb, Shameer Aziq (Shah Shahiran 72’), Daniel Bennett, Irwan Shah (Hafiz Sujad 63’), Yasir Hanapi, Khairul Amri, Irfan Najeeb (Madhu Mohaha 46’)