SAFFC 1 Mislav Karoglan 46’ (FT after ET: 1-1. SAFFC win 6-5 on penalties)
Balestier 1 Kim Minho 85’
SAFFC scorers: Mislav Karoglan, Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Zulfadli Zainal, Fazrul Nawaz.
Balestier scorers: Tengku Mushadad, Paul Cunningham, Kim Minho, Yusiskandar Yusop, Park Kang Jin.
Missed: Syed Thaha.
The preliminary round of the RHB Singapore Cup 2012 kicked off at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, as the first match saw SAFFC defeat Balestier on penalties after it ended 1-1 at full-time.
The home side were dealt an early blow when midfielder Erwan Gunawan went down clutching his hamstring just seconds into the game, and had to be replaced by defender Eddie Chang.
They had the first opening of the match when Shimpei Sakurada embarked on a surging run down the left before crossing for Fazrul Nawaz to nod narrowly over the bar at the near post.
Shahril Jantan was then forced into action as he blocked Zulkiffli Hassim’s shot from a tight angle, after Park Kang Jin had slipped him through.
It was Zakariah Nerani’s turn to use his hands as he pushed Mislav Karoglan’s daisycutter from 25 yards around the post on the half-hour after Muhaymin Salim had been caught in possession, before Daniel Bennett got his header all wrong from the ensuing corner.
The Croatian marksman then cut into the box from the right and saw his curling effort well tipped over by Zakariah, before Japanese set-piece expert Tatsuro Inui then struck a freekick over from the edge of the box as both sides headed into the break deadlocked at 0-0.
The Warriors needed only a minute to open the scoring after the restart though. Sakurada found Karoglan on the edge of the box and last season’s league top-scorer dropped a shoulder to get past his marker, before planting a superb finish into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Fazrul nearly got a second when he latched onto the ball after Paul Cunningham had completely air-kicked at a bouncing pass, but could only see his first-time half-volley come back off the crossbar. Sakurada dinked the rebound back into the box but this time, the striker miscued his shot from two yards out.
Cunningham tried to atone for his mistake as he beat Shahril to a freekick and headed over, while Kim Minho wasted a good chance to equalise when he directed a free header straight at the goalkeeper from Hamqamaal’s deflected cross.
The Korean striker then blasted wildly over from the edge of the box, with Tengku Mushadad firing a fierce effort into the midriff of the SAFFC custodian. He then pulled off a superb save to deny Tengku again in the 82nd minute, palming away a well-struck effort destined for the bottom corner.
Three minutes later, he made another good save to push away Park’s header from a corner despite being unsighted to preserve his team’s lead.
The incessant pressure from the Tigers paid off in the 85th minute, as Zulkiffli got on the end of a deep cross at the far post to head it back across for Kim, who had the simplest of tasks to slot home and send the match into extra-time.
Karoglan fired a couple of long-range efforts over and Sakurada curled a shot wide as SAFFC began the first period of extra time on the front foot, but they nearly conceded when Patrick Paran burst clear and chose to square the ball back instead of shooting, which led to the cross being cleared.
The second half began with the scores still level at 1-1, with Syed Thaha having to put in an excellent recovering tackle on Karoglan as the striker looked to sprint clear, while Cunningham headed just past the post from Park’s freekick.
Shukor Zailan nearly won it for SAFFC in the last minute when he flashed a low effort just wide of the post, but it took a penalty shoot-out to separate the teams in the end.
In the dreaded spot-kick faceoff, both teams converted all of their first five penalties. Fazrul Nawaz held his nerve to score what proved to be the winner in sudden-death, as Syed Thaha skied his effort shortly after and collapsed to the ground in agony.
It was a cruel way for Balestier to lose, as they had gave their all after going behind in the second half. Much the better side in the final twenty-five minutes, the Tigers probably should have scored a winner, and the Warriors were indebted to Shahril Jantan for bailing them out of trouble with a couple of fine stops.
Zulkiffli had a very good game down the left, causing no end of trouble with his pace and trickery, but it was a pity there was little movement in the box whenever he broke clear. Tengku came on and controlled the midfield, but SAFFC held on to the shootout, where to their credit they kept their heads to emerge victorious.
Good cup run is “important”
Richard Bok was a relieved man to see his side get the win, although he thought that his side created more chances during the game
“Very early on, I had to do a substitution, so the plans went a bit haywire, but I think we did well in the first half. We created many chances, but we didn’t convert them; even in the second half I thought we had some chances. After we scored, Fazrul missed a clear one in front of goal which could have put us 2-0 up. In the end, they were putting the ball in the box every time they had a chance and we didn’t deal with it for the goal they scored. “
He also admitted that his side had practiced penalties the day before in training, while emphasising that they wanted to progress as far as they could in the competition.
“It is very important to have a good cup run; league-wise we will try to catch up whatever we can, but in the Cup, hopefully we can work hard and try to get past the quarter final stage.”
Balestier coach Darren Stewart was not in the mood to say too much after the match, although he claimed there was “nothing disappointing” about his side’s performance and said that his boys could do with the rest period
“We deserved to lose… We need to rest, get bodies in, and this rest(break) has come at a good time.”
SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Razaleigh Khalik (Prakash Manikam 79’), Bah Mamadou, Daniel Bennett (C), Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Erwan Gunawan (Eddie Chang 3’ (Hafsyar Farkhan 105’)), Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Mislav Karoglan, Fazrul Nawaz. Unused subs: Rezal Hassan, Shariff Shaik.
Balestier: Zakariah Nerani, Yusiskandar Yusop, Paul Cunningham (C), Jaslee Hatta, Syed Thaha, Zulkiffli Hassim, Ruhaizad Ismail (Patrick Paran 57’), Park Kang Jin, Hamqamaal Shah (Andrew Tan 71’), Kim Minho, Muhaymin Salim (Tengku Mushadad 67’). Unused subs: Joey Sim, Nur Asyidiq, Poh Yi Feng, Chang Jo Yoon.
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