Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Shaiful Esah scored with two minutes remaining as Warriors FC came from behind to beat Balestier Khalsa 2-1 in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Tuesday night.
Raihan Rahman gave the Tigers a 27th-minute lead but Jordan Webb levelled matters shortly after the break to rescue a point for the visitors before Shaiful’s late winner.
Balestier’s new foreign signings Aung Kyaw Naing, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit and Kyaw Zayar Win were handed starting berths while Razif Onn did the same by naming Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak in his starting line-up.
The visitors started the game strongly and could have gone ahead on nine minutes but Fadhil Noh could only head over from a left-wing cross.
A minute later, Warriors had the ball in the net but Webb’s effort was disallowed for offside before Zayar Win fired a freekick which crept just wide in the 14th minute.
Balestier would however find themselves ahead three minutes before the half-hour mark when a penalty was awarded after Kyaw Naing was tripped in the box by Shaiful.
Raihan stepped up and the midfielder made no mistake, sending Basil Chan the wrong way from the spot to give the hosts the lead.
The opener spurred Warriors on and they came close on 39 minutes after a half-cleared cross fell into the path of Ridhuan Muhammad but the winger could only fire straight at Zaiful.
Warriors nearly snatched a equaliser on the stroke of half-time, but Fadhil was unable to chip the ball over an onrushing Zaiful Nizam as Balestier took a handy lead into the break.
The nine-time league champions continued from where they left off after the break and were duly rewarded with an equaliser three minutes into the second-half.
After Webb was impeded by Sheikh Abdul Hadi in the penalty area, the Warriors forward dusted himself down to convert the resulting penalty and make it 1-1.
Chan then came to the rescue of the Warriors on the hour mark, making a double save to first deny Kyaw Chit and then Zayar Win in quick succession.
Just as the two teams had to settle for a point each, Warriors then struck late to seal maximum points.
Connecting with Shahril’s freekick, Warriors captain Shaiful sent a stooping header which looped over a hapless Zaiful to put Warriors in front.
There was however still time for late drama, as Balestier skipper and goalkeeper Zaiful saw his freekick from 20 yards crash off the post as Warriors hung on for an important opening day victory.
Balestier Khalsa Head Coach Marko Kraljevic: “Although we lost the game, I'm happy with the overall performance. It was a good showing in our first game (of the season) but of course we can do better.
“We had a couple of good chances in the game, which we did not manage to put away. That’s football for you. We cannot dwell on today’s result and have to be positive and look forward to the next game (against Geylang International).”
Warriors FC Head Coach Razif Onn: “It’s a fantastic feeling to start the season with a win although I thought we were a little lucky with the winner.
“I told the players at half-time that they were capable of better football and what I saw in the second-half pleased me. Players like Webb were making the runs to try penetrate the Balestier defence and that was good.”
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Ashrul Syafeeq, Aung Kyaw Naing, Raihan Rahman, Kyaw Zayar Win, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit (Jonathan Tan 83’), Huzaifah Aziz, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Huzaifah Aziz, Hazzuwan Halim (Tajeli Selamat 72’)
Warriors FC: Basil Chan (GK), Hafiz Osman, Kento Fukuda, Ridhuan Muhammad (Hafiz Nor79’), Shaiful Esah (C) (Fazli Jaffar 90’), Jordan Webb (Syaqir Sulaiman 83’), Baihakki Khaizan, Fadhil Noh, Shahril Ishak, Firdaus Kasman, Ho Wai Loon
Source of Article: Sleague.com