Eight-man Balestier rescue point against Warriors

Balestier Khalsa avoided a second straight defeat as they forced a 2-2 draw against Warriors FC in the S.League despite finishing the game with eight men.

It was the Tigers who took the lead at the Jalan Besar Stadium after 15 minutes when Goran Ljubojevic headed home from a corner, but Warriors pulled level six minutes after the half-hour mark thanks to an excellent strike from Miroslav Pejic.

Nicolas Velez then netted from close range five minutes into the second half to put the designated visitors ahead, before Yusiskandar Yusop was shown a straight red shortly after for sliding through Kevin McCann.

But Balestier produced their trademark resilience to equalise in the 84th minute courtesy of a lovely lob from captain Paul Cunningham, and they managed to hold on to a point despite having Kim Min-ho and Ridwan Jamil sent off right at the end.

In what turned out to be an entertaining clash that was ultimately tarnished by some controversial refereeing, both sides showed excellent initiative from the opening whistle and it was the Warriors who had the first sighting at goal when Daniel Bennett met Marin Vidosevic’s nod-down with a fierce half-volley that drew a flying save from Zaiful Nizam.

Neezam Aziz was then called into action in the seventh minute when he got a firm hand to keep out Ruhaizad Ismail’s powerful effort, before Zaiful reacted well once more five minutes later to save a low drive from Velez.

Neezam, who had big gloves to fill deputising for the suspended Hassan Sunny, produced another good stop in the 14th minute to keep out a long-range strike from Zulkiffli Hassim, after a corner had been cleared straight to the Tigers winger.

But there was little he could do to prevent Balestier from edging ahead a minute later as from the resultant corner, Syed Thaha floated an excellent ball to Ljubojevic, who made no mistake in sending a looping header past a stranded Neezam.

Marko Kraljevic’s charges were then unlucky not to double their advantage in the 24th minute when Poh Yi Feng latched onto a loose ball outside the box and let fly on his left foot, only to see his shot come back off the bar.

The Tigers continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides and Ruhaizad carved out two excellent chances shortly after the half-hour mark, only to see Ljubojevic and Cunningham fail to convert with headers.

And in the 36th minute, the Warriors hit back through a moment of brilliance from Pejic; the Croat finding space just inside the box and cutting onto his left foot, before exquisitely floating the ball into the far corner.

Buoyed at pulling level, Alex Weaver’s side began to step up a gear and they duly took the lead five minutes into the second half when an elaborate freekick routine between Hafiz Rahim and Pejic saw the ball to Shi Jiayi inside the box.

There was a hint of offside as he received the ball but the flag stayed down, allowing the Singapore international to touch the ball into the path of Velez, who did not fail with a close-range finish to open his Warriors account.

Just four minutes later, things went from bad to worse for Balestier as they were reduced to ten men after Yusiskandar flew in on McCann and caught his opponent, and was shown a straight red by Sukhbir Singh.

With the numerical advantage, the Warriors began to gain a stranglehold on proceedings but were unable to add a third goal; Hafiz, Pejic and Velez all failing to convert decent chances.

And six minutes from time, they were made to pay as Balestier grabbed the equaliser after Cunningham received possession 25 yards out from goal, and proceeded to send a sublime lob over Neezam and into the back of the net.

Still, Warriors could have grabbed a winner in the 89th minute after Pejic and Velez linked up well to create an opening for Hafsyar Farkhan, only for Zaiful to produce a stunning point-blank range save to deny the substitute from four yards.

As the clock ticked over into injury-time, Sukhbir then stole the headlines as he showed Kim a second yellow for taking too long to leave the field, just as Balestier were about to replace him with Ahmad Syahir, who had to retake his place on the bench.

Moments later, Ridwan followed him and Yusiskandar for an early bath after shoving Daniel Bennett in the chest, although the Tigers were able to hold out for the draw.

In Friday’s other game at the Bedok Stadium, DPMM FC failed to win for a second game running as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Geylang International.

Having been handed their first defeat of the season by Tampines Rovers last week, the Bruneians fell behind after 17 minutes when Yuki Ichikawa turned home Mustaqim Manzur’s freekick following an error in judgement by opposition goalkeeper Wardun Yussof.

But four minutes later, Rodrigo Tosi netted with a header to earn his side a share of the spoils.

Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Tajeli Salamat, Emir Lotinac, Paul Cunningham, Syed Thaha, Poh Yi Feng, Yusiskandar Yusop, Zulkiffli Hassim (Jonathan Xu 79’), Kim Min-ho, Ruhaizad Ismail (Ridwan Jamil 57’), Goran Ljubojevic.

Warriors FC: Neezam Aziz, Jeremy Chiang, Daniel Bennett, Marin Vidosevic, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Kevin McCann, Thomas Beattie, Miroslav Pejic, Hafiz Rahim (Hafsyar Farkhan 87’), Shi Jiayi (Irwan Shah 79’), Nicolas Velez.


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