Tigers Notch First Win At Young Lions' Expense

Tajeli Selamat was the fulcrum of Balestier's transition from defence to attack but it was a pity to see him stretchered off after 69 minutes of play. Photo: Shawn Lim | Great Eastern - Hyundai S.League

Both teams were expected to fight tooth and nail for their first points of the season and fight they certainly did. It was an exciting affair which saw Fashah Iskandar pulling a remarkable save off Aung Kyaw Naing's penalty in the first half.

Fashah, who travelled with the Young Lions' for their sojourn in the U.A.E. for the Dubai Cup, was starting only his first match of the 2017 season and the stout shot-stopper was called into action as early as the 7th minute where he parried a rasping free-kick from Aung.

The action shifted to the other end of the pitch five minutes later when Hami Syahin's spectacular half-volley flew just inches above Zaiful Nizam's crossbar.

Fadli Kamis was then brought down in the 22nd minute for a penalty, but Aung's low spot kick was turned past the post for a corner kick brilliantly by Fashah.

The miss seemed to have frustrated Balestier as Ahmad Syahin received a yellow card for upending a Young Lions player with a terrible challenge three minutes later before Nanda Linn was let off with a warning for a dangerous high boot moments later.

The Young Lions were not content to sit back and defend and Taufik Suparno proved to be a menace for Balestier's defence with his tricky runs and footwork.

Aung should have scored right before the half-time whistle when his Myanmarese compatriot Zayar Win sent a telling cross into the box but the plucky attacker failed to connect cleanly, heading it wide of the right post.

Fashah Iskandar turns the penalty past the upright to disappoint Aung Kyaw Naing.
Photo: Shawn Lim | Great Eastern - Hyundai S.League

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic elected to bring on Hanafi Akbar for his re-debut during half-time for the uninspired Nanda Linn and it didn't take long for the young midfielder to get into the game, sending a free kick into the box in the 46th minute which was met by Tajeli Selamat. who fired off a looping header towards goal which Fashah gathered in his arms.

Taufik Suparno then missed a golden chance to put the Young Lions ahead four minutes later but his shot lacked sufficient power to trouble Zaiful Nizam. This would come back to haunt the Young Lions as Hanafi Akbar's diagonal punt in the 52nd minute found Hazzuwan Halim on the right flank and the midfielder did well to hold off a slew of challenges to square a low ball to Aung, who gladly tapped it in for his first goal in the S.League.

Hami Syahin tried to force an immediate reply three minutes later by striking from the edge of the box but Shah Hirul blocked it off sensibly before it could trouble Zaiful.

A quick Young Lions counter-attack seemed prospective in the middle of the second half but Muhaimin Suhaimi's intended diagonal pass struck referee Farhad Mohamed's bottom rather than the flock of Young Lions surging forward and the misery continued in the 66th minute when Syahrul Sazali slipped to put the nippy Aung through on goal but Young Lions skipper Shahrin Saberin was on hand to block off the Myanmarese's shot. Taufik unfortunately completed the trifecta of comical gaffes by the Young Lions when the striker couldn't muster a shot at a gaping goalmouth from 3 yards out after good work from Muhaimin on the right flank.

Aung should have gotten a second goal in the 81st minute after a good one-two with Zayar Win but he chose to chip a through ball to the latter instead of shooting at goal.

The Young Lions' bench then erupted in fury as their calls for a penalty were waved off by referee Farhad in the 85th minute after it seemed that Taufik was nudged in the box. Zaiful then kept his sheet clean by pulling off a magical save in extra time off Ammirul Emmran's last gasp header.

With the win, the Tigers grab their first points of the season while the Young Lions are still left high and dry without any points after four matches played.

In the other match in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei DPMM emerged with  a 2-0 win over Hougang United to earn their first win of the season as well. The match also saw a record being broken as 46 year old custodian Alizanda Sitom officially became the oldest player to ever play in the S.League, beating Aleksandar Đurić's previous record by two years.

Note: Hanafi Akbar's last league game for Balestier Khalsa came in 2014. He played 55 minutes over 2 matches for the Tigers in that season.

Article: Aaron Chan | Photos: Shawn Lim | Great Eastern - Hyundai S.League
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