Balestier Not Complacent Despite SAFFC Woes

Typically, an S.League match involving Balestier Khalsa and SAFFC would see the former side looking for points to improve on their position in the lower half of the league table, while the latter would be busy chasing their championship dreams.

Thursday’s encounter at Toa Payoh Stadium therefore represents something of the atypical, as the Tigers head into the game holding third place, while their opponents will need a four-goal victory margin just to move their way up into sixth spot.

The Warriors’ slow start to the 2012 campaign has been particularly curious, as they appear to have strengthened significantly with their off-season acquisitions of Japanese midfielders Shimpei Sakurada, Tatsuro Inui and Seiji Saito.

Key men like Mislav Karoglan, Fazrul Nawaz and Daniel Bennett have been retained, while the arrival of Hassan Sunny, who is still recovering from surgery after tearing a knee ligament last May, promises additional strength in a goalkeeping department already featuring Shahril Jantan.

Frail defending has repeatedly undone the eight-time champions so far this term, though, and last week’s 2-2 draw with unfancied Woodlands Wellington represents a new low for Richard Bok, who has become increasingly reclusive this term.

Bok’s Balestier counterpart Darren Stewart, however, expressed the belief that it is a matter of when, not if, his opponents this week will get out of their funk.


Balestier Fell White Swans Before Bumper Crowd

Friday night’s Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League match at Jurong East Stadium set a season record as a crowd of 2,502 filled the stands to watch Albirex Niigata (Singapore) take on Balestier Khalsa – the biggest number so far for a game in Singapore.

The two sides did not disappoint the many who had turned up, providing some marvellous entertainment, with visitors Balestier upsetting Albirex 2-1.

The win, coming after two performances that had fallen well short of the Tigers’ best according to their coach Darren Stewart, arrived after some soul-searching at Toa Payoh among the playing and coaching staff in the week leading up to the game.

With Zulkiffli Hassim returning to the side following his two-match suspension – barely a day after completing his reservist commitments – the visitors clearly appeared boosted by the speedy midfielder’s inclusion again.

Stewart typically tried to play down the significance of Zulkiffli’s return, but was moved to offer a compliment after the player had opened the scoring on 28 minutes to inspire the victory.


Hard Tigers Visit Awaits Albirex

Friday night’s match at Jurong East Stadium between Albirex Niigata (Singapore) and Balestier Khalsa is possibly one of the hardest to read this week.

Both of these are teams which will be keen to re-establish their credentials as early – and in many eyes surprise – challengers matching strides.

After winning their opening three games, the White Swans from Niigata, who were the first leaders for the new season, faced three far tougher propositions and faltered a little, much to their dismay.

Balestier also enjoyed a rare appearance at the top of the ladder, before they similarly stumbled and fell from those lofty heights as rivals envious of their new-found status as frontrunners were ready to cut them down to size.

Albirex have not always been as reliable at home as they were last season, so it would be odd to say that Balestier cannot beat them there, even when one harks back to an era when the Tigers were more familiar with a role as battlers nearer the foot of the table than as title contenders.

In 2010, for instance, Brazilian star Rivaldo Costa helped the visitors to a surprise 1-0 win at Jurong East, while in 2005 Balestier met the Japanese side twice at the same venue, securing a 0-0 draw and a 1-0 win.


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297 Lorong 6, Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh Stadium (Gate 3), Singapore 319389
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