Home United were denied a fifth successive clean sheet as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Balestier Khalsa in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday evening.
Fadli Kamis’ early header was cancelled out by Shahril Ishak’s penalty just before half-time, with both sides eventually settling for a point after failing to make their chances count in the second half.
The result meant Home are now level on points with second-placed Tampines Rovers – albeit having played two games more, while Balestier drop down to sixth – two points ahead of nearest challenger Young Lions.
Home had started off the better of the two sides and could have scored after just eight minutes.
Shahril held off his marker after taking down Aqhari Abdullah’s lofted ball into the box, but his resulting volley crashed off the crossbar with Iqram Rifqi failing to connect with the rebound.
The Protectors, however, fell asleep at the back and paid the price in the 16th minute.
Vrebac Sanjin’s superb free-kick delivery picked out Fadli, who leapt the highest to nod past a stranded Home goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah and put Balestier 1-0 up.
That was the first goal which Home conceded in 465 minutes of football and that stung them into action, with Amy Recha firing over from the edge of the box three minutes later.
Aidil’s side, however, continued to be vulnerable at set-pieces – with Fadli almost connecting with another Sanjin free-kick on 31 minutes.
Fadli did put the ball in again two minutes later, but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for an initial handball.
It looked like Balestier would hold the one-goal lead till half time, but Home had other ideas with Shahril tugged down by Sheikh Abdul Hadi in the six-yard box just when he was about to pull the trigger.
The 34-year-old missed a spot-kick in the midweek 2-0 victory over Young Lions, but he made no mistakes this time as he sent Balestier custodian Zaiful Nizam the wrong way from 12 yards out for his 13th goal in all competitions this season to level things up.
In the second half, both sides had their chances but were denied by some superb goalkeeping.
Home could have made it 2-1 on 54 minutes when Shakir Hamzah put Captain Izzdin Shafiq through on goal. However Zaiful raced out of goal well to deny the latter’s resulting shot, before pulling off a stunning reflex save to deny Shakir’s spectacular follow-up.
Three minutes later, it was Rudy’s turn as he tipped wide a 25-yard effort by Balestier winger Noor Akid Nordin.
On 58 minutes, Zaiful stood strong once again to deny Amy from point-blank range. Rudy was determined not to let his opposite number steal the show as he repelled Sanjin’s 30-yard free-kick seven minutes later.
Both sides began to tire out, with chances at a premium in the final 20 minutes.
Home could have stolen all three points three minutes into injury time though, but Shahril’s free-kick on the edge of the area was denied by the left-hand post as the game eventually ended in a draw.
Home will go away to Bandar Seri Begawan to face Brunei DPMM FC next Saturday, before Balestier host runaway leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) 24 hours later.
Home United FC Head Coach Aidil Sharin: “It’s two points dropped, but you have to look at the matches we’ve played – we have the most matches this month while some have two or three games. I don’t understand. It’s not easy but my boys gave everything and I’m proud of them.
“Balestier had a younger squad than us but they were going down with cramps (in the second half). It shows that we are fitter and we have so many chances… one which hit the post.
“Maybe four is the unlucky number – Albirex (Niigata FC (S))’ clean-sheet record also stopped at that number. It was just one mistake and one moment of luck (from Balestier) – it’s not a creative fantastic goal. I’m happy with how we defend and we were more superior. Hopefully we can do something against DPMM next week.”
Balestier Khalsa FC Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “I’m very happy that with some injuries and suspensions, the other players stepped in and proved that they can play against one of the best local sides. Home did have a few counter-attacks late on, but there was no clear chances.
“Sanjin did great in midfield and he could be the future of Singapore football – who knows? It was always my plan to bring on Dusan (Marinkovic) in the second half and he could have scored. Fadli done very well and almost won every header in the box from set-pieces – he deserve to be in the (Singapore) National Team.
“We don’t have pressure, we just play… Top five in the league will be very good for us.”
Home United FC: Rudy Khairullah (GK), Arshad Shamim, Abdil Qaiyyim, Faizal Roslan, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Nor (Christopher Van Huizen 86’), Izzdin Shafiq (C), Aqhari Abdullah, Iqram Rifqi (Faritz Hameed 69’), Amy Recha (Amiruldin Asraf 76’), Shahril Ishak
Balestier Khalsa FC: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Nurullah Hussein, Ahmad Syahir, Nurisham Jupri, Sufianto Salleh (Khalili Khalif 88’), Fariz Faizal, Vrebac Sanjin (Haiqal Adnan 90’), Noor Akid Nordin, Akbar Shah (Dusan Marinkovic 60’)