Gombak United 1 (Fairoz Hasan 54’)
Balestier Khalsa 0
A narrow 1-0 win at the Jurong West Stadium on Thursday evening for Singapore Cup semi-finalists Gombak United propelled them into ninth place in the S-League table with 15 points.
Gombak suffered an early scare in the fifth minute when versatile full-back Ismail Yunos almost allowed Balestier to draw first blood. Ismail delayed his clearance and new signing Zdravko Dragicevic nicked the ball off the defender before firing a shot which trickled just wide, to the relief of the Singapore international.
The next chance of the game came in the 12th minute with Goran Subara flashing a volley wide following Ismail’s weak headed clearance. Tigers skipper Paul Cunningham then put in a superb block at the near post to prevent Julien Durand from pulling the trigger after the French forward had gotten to K Vikraman’s cross ahead of him.
Vikraman then had to head the ball off the line not once, but twice in the 26th minute to keep his side in the game as Gombak ended the half strongly and almost found the back of the net on two occasions.
On 40 minutes, Hafiz Rahim flashed a half-volley from six yards out from Mustaqim Manzur’s cross before Durand dragged a left-footed shot narrowly wide from an acute angle after substitute Fairoz Hasan had sent him through on goal.
And it was Fairoz who put the Bulls ahead in the 54th minute. After some good work on the left by Mustaqim, he laid the ball back for Nurullah Hussein to whip a cross in for Fairoz Hasan to power home a header from close range. It was an impeccably timed run from the former Young Lions midfielder, sneaking in behind two defenders before heading the ball past Joey Sim.
Mustaqim then very nearly doubled the lead for the home side five minutes later but was denied by alert goalkeeping from Sim, who did well to cover his near post to palm the winger’s free-kick away to safety.
In the 72nd minute, Jung Hee Bong picked out the run of Durand with an accurate cross-field pass but the latter’s final shot was a disappointing one, blasting it over with only the keeper to beat. In the final chance of the game five minutes from time, Ruhaizad Ismail’s shot from range was well-saved by Gombak’s custodian Zaiful Nizam as the home side held on for the three precious points.
Speaking after the game, Balestier coach Darren Stewart said: “It was a tough but probably a good game under terrible conditions. Both teams played well. It always looked like a goal would decide the game, and it did.”
“I thought we did not put away the chances we created in the first half and it (eventually) came back to haunt us,” the Australian added.
On the goal conceded, he said: “We probably stood still when we thought the ball went out. It’s something that we would definitely talk about but it was just a game which we did not put away our chances.”
He sounded rather dissatisfied with the condition of the pitch, and remarked: “As you could see from up there and in fact better than me, the pitch condition was… horrendous.”
It was however, not the first time a coach has expressed their concern and probably dissatisfaction with the condition of the pitch. Hougang’s Nenad Bacina did make a similar comment back in April, likening the pitch to a beach.
Gombak’s assistant coach Stephen Ng felt that his charges did not create many clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities throughout the game.
“On a whole, we did not create many chances to be fair.”
“We have to give credit to Balestier; they had a more than decent game and we were lucky especially with the goal-line clearance we had to make.”
It was nonetheless, a ‘satisfying performance’ to Ng, and that the team played according to the plan they had discussed prior to the game.
“It was a satisfying performance (from my team), and we carried out what we had planned on the pitch today.”
Gombak next face Tanjong Pagar this coming Monday (16th of July) at Jurong West while Balestier take on Hougang United at Toa Payoh two days later.
Gombak: Zaiful Nizam; Nurullah Hussein, Obadin Aikhena (C), Ismail Yunos, Adrian Dhanaraj; Amin Rossady (Zulfadhli Emran 90’) , Chris Anderson, K Vikraman (Fairoz Hasan 29’), Mustaqim Manzur (Jung Hee Bong 59’); Hafiz Rahim, Julien Durand
Unused subs: Rudy Khairullah, Farouq Farkhan, Fuad Jufri
Balestier: Joey Sim; Yusiskandar Yusop (Patrick Paran 70’) , Goran Subara, Paul Cunningham (C), Jaslee Hatta; Syed Thaha, Tengku Mushadad, Park Kang Jin, Poh Yi Feng (Hamqaamal Shah 61’); Zdravko Dragicevic, Zulkiffli Hassim (Ruhaizad Ismail 61’)
Unused subs: Zakariah Nerani, Anantha Rajan, Andrew Tan, Shafuan Sutohmoh
Yellow card(s): - (Gombak); Jaslee Hatta (Balestier)
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