Balestier Khalsa are through to the Singapore Cup final with a penalty shootout victory over Tampines Rovers after both sides played out a 2-2 aggregate draw in the semi-finals.
It was Tampines who had claimed the honours with a 2-1 win in Monday’s first leg, but given how slender their lead was, the Tigers headed into Thursday’s return encounter at the Toa Payoh Stadium with everything to play for.
And following a goalless first half, Paul Cunningham marked his return to the Balestier starting XI following a wretched year with injury in fine style; handing the hosts the lead in the 62nd minute with a thumping header from close range after their opponents had failed to clear their lines.
The goal was enough to take the tie into extra-time but with neither side able to find a winner in the additional 30 minutes, the game then proceeded to the dreaded penalty shootout.
Cunningham, Goran Ljubojevic and Kim Min-ho were all successful with the Tigers’ first three efforts but it was goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam who emerged as the hero as he denied both Shahdan Sulaiman and Fahrudin Mustafic, before Jacob Butler finally got the visitors on the board.
Fittingly enough, it was Zaiful who stepped up to take the decisive fourth spot-kick for Balestier and he coolly slotted past Justin Pasfield to seal their spot in the final.
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam, Jaslee Hatta, Emir Lotinac, Paul Cunningham, Syed Thaha, Ridwan Jamil (Sofiyan Abdul Hamid 75’), Poh Yi Feng, Ruhaizad Ismail (Muhaymin Salim 82’), Park Kang-jin, Zulkiffli Hassim (Kim Min-ho 61’), Goran Ljubojevic.
Tampines Rovers: Justin Pasfield, Anaz Hadee (Ang Zhiwei 33’), Fahrudin Mustafic, Jufri Taha, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jacob Butler, Shahdan Sulaiman, Shaiful Esah, Jozef Kaplan, Aleksandar Duric, Noh Alam Shah.