Balestier Khalsa let slip a two-goal advantage and were held to a 2-2 draw with Hougang United at Toa Payoh Stadium on Friday night.
The Cheetahs were seemingly dead and buried as the game approached full time but Fumiya Kogure pulled a goal back in the 86th minute before Stipe Plazibat slotted home a penalty to salvage a draw for the visitors.
It took eight minutes for Balestier to threaten with Fazli Ayob finding Sheikh Abdul Hadi in the box but the defender headed over from close range.
However, the Tigers went ahead just a minute later as Miroslav Kristic’s flick on was latched onto by debutant Niko Tokic and he rounded goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid before dispatching the ball home.
The chances dried up thereafter in the first half, although Hougang’s Fumiya Kogure tried his hardest to make things happen for the Cheetahs.
Hougang enjoyed a rare and great chance in the 58th minute, when M.Anumanthan lobbed a fantastic ball through to Nazrul Nazari but the latter’s first touch let him down and the ball bobbled away instead.
The visitors paid for that miss just moments later, as Kristic provided his second assist of the night with a lay on to Fazli and the midfielder unleashed a sublime effort over Khairulhin.
Credit to the Cheetahs, they still gave it a real go and Zaiful was called upon at the other end to claw away a fierce shot by Wahyudi Wahid in the 62nd minute.
Stipe Plazibat’s shot from distance was deflected just over on 68th minute while Zaiful had to tip away Kogure’s free-kick in the 71st minute.
Balestier could have killed off Hougang with a third goal in the 78th minute but Fadhil Noh’s shot came off the post.
Coach Marko Kraljevic will be disappointed his side failed to clinch that third goal, as Hougang reduced the deficit in the 86th minute when Zaiful parried Plazibat’s header but the rebound fell for Kogure to slam home from three yards out.
The comeback was completed right at the end of regulation time, after an infringement by Fadli Kamis saw Hougang awarded a penalty, which Plazibat duly converted.
Balestier had a great chance to nick it at the end but Tokic saw his shot from inside the box coming off the bar.
Kraljevic admitted he was very disappointed by the result and he said that his side was just unlucky not to grab their second win of the season.
“We should have finished the game but (we didn’t) and they scored one goal and one penalty and then everything was gone,” Kraljevic lamented.
“We worked hard, of course scoring two goals and then we hit the woodwork twice but we were just very unlucky. The boys worked hard but luck just wasn’t on our side.”
The Tigers’ coach was also delighted Tokic managed to hit the mark in his debut.
“Good for Niko, he just joined and scored a goal. I am happy, he held the ball, scored the goal,” the Croatian expressed.
“He only had two trainings with the boys, he needs some time to gel with the boys. Now we have six games this month so he will get better.”
Hougang coach K.Balagumaran on the other hand was relieved his side escaped defeat and he insisted he would have taken a point even before the game.
“The first 45 minutes, we were not playing according to our game plan,” he added.
“Balestier defended well, but I would say we were quite impatient trying to break them so they scored two goals from the counter.
“It’s never easy trying to beat Balestier so I have to be happy with one point, especially after conceding two goals.”
Match report by: FFT (Kenneth Ho)
Photos courtesy of Haiqal Tahir