Tanjong Pagar 1 (Takaya Kawanabe 70')
Balestier Khalsa 0
Photo courtesy of FAS
After beating last season's runners-up Home United at the same ground just over a week ago, Tanjong Pagar replicated the same result on the same ground as the high-flying Balestier Khalsa were stunned by the Jaguars at the Queenstown Stadium on Sunday evening.
Missing for the Tigers were midfielders Ridwan Jamil (torn ACL) and Tengku Mushadad (knee) along with winger Zulkiffli Hassim, who was serving the last of his five-match ban. While Tengku was named on the substitutes bench and did come on in the second half, Ridwan was not so lucky as his injury meant that he would sit out the remainder of the season.
With the piling injury list, Balestier had no choice but to draw on their reserves as Muhaymin Salim was handed his second league start of the season, partnering Park Kang Jin in the middle of the park in a rather straightforward 4-4-2.
For the hosts, skipper Delwinder Singh again started in midfield alongside Azhar Ahmad as both did well to protect their backline which comprised of Zahid Ahmad, Hafiz Osman, Hanafi Salleh and Jonathan Xu.
The first half was a rather poor one with the visitors looking rather lacklustre and were unlike their usual self, struggling to carve out any decent openings.
It was the Jaguars who had the first chance on nine minutes when Takaya Kawanabe took advantage of Syed Thaha's slip and hit a low shot from 25 yards out which flashed just wide. Patrick Paran then glanced a header wide from Ruhaizad Ismail's outswinging corner in the 17th minute.
A quick break from Tanjong Pagar saw Aliff Shafaein send in a low cross which his teammate, Lee Joo Sang, almost got to on 23 minutes. And just two minutes later, Kim Minho slid a low cross into the penalty area after breaking free from Hafiz Osman on the right but none of the white shirts were present to get onto the end of it.
Hafiz then tried to be fanciful on 27 when he met Serge Souchon's inswinger but totally mistimed it as the Balestier defence eventually cleared the ball to safety. Ruhaizad then saw his powerful grounder a minute later spilled by Jaguars' custodian, Fajar Sarib for a corner.
After the break, Balestier had a chance to go one up on 56 minutes when captain Paul Cunningham stung the palms of Fajar with a blistering free-kick from 30 yards out before the same man popped up on the end of another Ruhaizad Ismail corner only to see his header hacked off the line by Azhar Ahmad in the 65th minute.
Tragedy struck for the Tigers in the 67th minute when goalkeeper Joey Sim stuck a foot at Takaya Kawanabe who was closing down on him. Referee Ahmad A'Qashah pointed to the spot, much to the disbelief of the Balestier players and booked Sim in the process.
Kawanabe converted his initial spot-kick but was ordered a retake due to an encroachment. The Japanese was over it again, placing his spot-kick into the bottom right for his sixth of the season.
Not long after finding themselves behind, Balestier coach Darren Stewart made a triple substitution in the 72nd minute. Out went Ruhaizad Ismail, Patrick Paran and Muhaymin Salim and in came Andrew Tan, Chang Jo Yoon and an injured Tengku Mushadad who had 'played through the pain barrier', according to Stewart after the game.
With the triple change, it meant that the visitors were playing a 4-3-3 with Kim Minho and Andrew Tan flanking Yoon on either flank. It made a significant difference for the Tigers as they looked more dangerous on the attack, especially down both wings with the pace Andrew and Kim possessed.
On one such occasion in the 80th minute, Kim was played through into the penalty area but the 20-year-old hesitated to pull the trigger and when he eventually did, Fajar Sarib had it covered and all he needed to do was to get down low to his near post to smother the ball.
The towering Paul Cunningham was then pushed forward in the closing stages of the game as Balestier went in search for the equalizer. However, it just did not come as Tanjong Pagar held on to another crucial three points at home.
Despite seeing his side suffering defeat, Balestier's Darren Stewart was still all-smiles when he spoke after the game.
'Disappointed? Not with the performance, result of course... but the lads played well, really well. We did not look like scoring tonight but the effort and performance was tremendous,' the Australian said.
'We could not score. A lot of possession in the attacking third but we just couldn't score. I don't think we had a shot on target. Maybe one in the first half but that's not enough,' he added.
Ahead of their clash with Brunei DPMM this Thursday, he is hopeful that his team will pick themselves up and go into the game in the right state of mind.
On the penalty decision, Stewart labeled it as a 'dodgy decision' but refused to blame Sim for it.
Tanjong Pagar head coach Terry Pathmanathan was pleased after seeing his side carve out back-to-back wins but stressed that his side should maintain this consistency for upcoming games.
On the penalty, Pathamanthan had a view as opposed to Stewart's. He said: "From my point of view, it was quite obvious because the goalkeeper (Joey Sim) stuck his leg out. Normally as a goalkeeper, your studs should not show at all."
He however added: "I won't dispute on that but in all fairness... You have to look at it and see if it's a call made by the referee."
Tanjong Pagar will next visit Woodlands on the 11th while Balestier face current league leaders Brunei DPMM in next week's live televised game at Jalan Besar on the 10th.
Tanjong Pagar: Fajar Sarib (GK); Hafiz Osman, Delwinder Singh (C), Jonathan Xu, Azhar Ahmad; Serge Souchon, Takaya Kawanabe, Zahid Ahmad, Hanafi Salleh, Aliff Shafaein; Lee Joo Sang (Syed Karim 45') Unused subs: Sudhershen Hariram, Shamsudin Hashim, S Vickneshwaran, Is Hafizuddin, Abdul Rahim Latiff, Haidhar Raffick
Balestier Khalsa: Joey Sim (GK); Yusiskandar Yusop, Paul Cunningham (C), Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha; Hamqaamal Shah, Park Kang Jin, Kim Minho, Ruhaizad Ismail (Andrew Tan 72'); Patrick Paran (Chang Jo Yoon 72'), Muhaymin Salim (Tengku Mushadad 72') Unused subs: Poh Yi Feng, Helmi Mazlan, Nur Asyidiq, Daniel Ong
Yellow card(s): - (Tanjong Pagar); Yusiskandar Yusop, Ruhaizad Ismail, Joey Sim (Balestier)
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