HOUGANG UNITED 0
BALESTIER KHALSA 1
By Kenneth Tan
Hougang United went down to their fourth defeat of the 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League season after a narrow 1-0 defeat by Balestier Khalsa at the Hougang Stadium on Saturday night.
Tigers hotshot Miroslav Kristic scored nine minutes from time to ensure the RHB Singapore Cup holders take all three points at the expense of the Cheetahs, although it would have been a different story if Hougang had capitalized on all their scoring opportunities.
Having missed the last two games through injury, Japanese forward Takahashi Manato seemed determined to make up for lost time as he got himself to the end of two opportunities inside the first 15 minutes.
First he took down a long ball from Yuki Uchiyama before firing a close-range shot right at Zaiful Nizam. Then he headed Fareez Farhan’s right-wing cross just wide of the left-hand post.
Balestier settled in thereafter and created a couple of opportunities, with Tarik Cmajcanin forcing Basil Chan to tip his low effort wide while Robert Pericic’s close-range header somehow clipped the bar and over.
Hougang did ended the half well as Uchiyama just failed to place his header from Shunsuke Nakatake’s corner on target, while Fareez’s dipping strike from 30 yards out was inches away from finding the top-right corner.
The Cheetahs picked up where they left off after the restart, with Manato lashing over just outside the box while Fareez and Nakatake tried to beat Zaiful from range.
They should perhaps have went ahead on 73 minutes when Francisco “Chupe” Ela’s right-wing cross evaded the whole Balestier defence en route to substitute Matthew Abraham inside the six-yard box, but the latter only managed to scoop wide of goal.
That miss proved costly as Balestier broke the deadlock seven minutes later via one of their own substitutes.
Having replaced Zulkiffli Hassim six minutes earlier, Ignatius Ang wasted little time in getting down the left before squaring across goal for Kristic. The latter coolly evaded his marker before firing an unerring shot into the bottom right corner past the stranded Chan.
That goal sparked wild celebrations from the Balestier bench and eventually proved to be the winner. Despite Hougang’s incessant pressure towards the end, the Tigers managed to see out the victory which lifted them to fourth in the table.
Meanwhile Hougang remains on ninth position with three points from seven games. They will next host Harimau Muda at the Hougang Stadium on April 23.
Hougang United: Basil Chan (GK), Faizal Amir, Yuki Uchiyama, Kunihiro Yamashita, Lau Meng Meng, Fareez Farhan (Fairoz Hasan 64’), Shunsuke Nakatake, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Faiz Salleh (Matthew Abraham 64’), Takahashi Manato, Francisco “Chupe” Ela (Kenneth Chang 84’).
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK); Ahmad Syahir, Igor Cerina, Nurullah Hussein, Ho Wai Loon, Tarik Cmajcanin, Jonathan Xu (Ridwan Jamil 74’), Emir Lotinac, Zulkiffli Hassim (Ignatius Ang 74’), Miroslav Kristic, Robert Pericic.
Photo credit: S.League