A little piece of individual magic from Zulkiffli Hassim was all that separated his Balestier Khalsa team from Hougang United as Thursday evening’s encounter at Jalan Besar Stadium proved incredibly close.
With 76 minutes gone, Zulkiffli received the ball at the edge of the Hougang area before twisting and turning past his defender and releasing a powerful shot beyond the reach of Fadhil Salim.
That strike was enough to give the Tigers all three points to maintain their unbeaten record, taking them one point and one place above Hougang, who now stand third in the league table.
But Nenad Bacina’s Cheetahs would be aggrieved not to get something out of the match, having put a fair bit of pressure on their opponents’ goal and were looking the better of the two sides in the second half.
This match was one for the purists, as not many goalscoring opportunities were created, nor was there a lot of goalmouth action.
Following an impressive start to the season, Balestier Khalsa centre-back Goran Subara admits he is loving life at the Toa Payoh Stadium so far.
The Tigers have picked up five points from their opening three Great Eastern-YEO's S.League matches so far, and are currently fifth in the table.
Having joined Balestier from SAFFC during the off-season, Subara reveals he is delighted to be working under coach Darren Stewart again, who brought him to Singapore back in 2009 when he signed him for Gombak United.
"I'm enjoying it [being at Balestier]," the 24-year-old told ESPNSTAR.com's Gabriel Tan in an exclusive interview. "I'm glad to be playing under Darren Stewart again.
"The trainings are pretty intense [but] I like it when it's intense, because you're here to do a job and working hard means, during the game, you're going to be able to last and give it all you can."
Both Hougang United and Balestier Khalsa have had brilliant starts to the season, having remained unbeaten in their first three matches.
For teams that only managed to finish at the middle of the table last season, the Cheetahs and Tigers are second and fifth respectively – a definite surprise, considering how the usual title contenders are struggling for league position at this early stage.
Each team’s great start will be put to the test when Hougang and Balestier meet at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday evening for the ‘live’ telecast match of the week.
Balestier come into this encounter on the back of a 1-1 draw with Gombak United just last Sunday. A Park Jin Kang goal after a dozen minutes gave Darren Stewart’s men the lead against his former charges, but Mustaqim Manzur netted ten minutes before the full-time whistle.
That may not have been a good result, nor was it the kind of performance Stewart wanted, as he indicated after the match. But then again, Balestier’s best result came on Jalan Besar’s artificial turf when they played defending champions Tampines Rovers in the second week of action.