Harimau Muda secured their first point at home this season after holding Balestier to a drawA scoreless draw it may have been, but Thursday afternoon’s Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League attraction at the Pasir Gudang Stadium was far from being a lifeless affair.
Visitors Balestier Khalsa had ventured north on what their coach Darren Stewart later described as a “proper away game”, since his Singapore-based Tigers had travelled as far as Johor to meet Malaysia’s national Under-21 side, the Harimau Muda 'B'.
The game certainly had its moments, with Balestier suffering an early blow when in-form Korean striker Kim Min-Ho went off with an injury after only 28 minutes and had to be taken to hospital by club officials who were concerned about a possible ankle fracture.
X-rays revealed nothing as serious subsequently and the player was able to travel home with his team mates, but not before creating some good chances that could have led to his side taking the lead.
It had been all Balestier at the start, with Park Kang Jin, Kim and Jung Hee Bong all instrumental in some fine attacking moves.
After only three minutes Park squeezed a pass through to Jung, who was eight yards out on the left, but the angle proved beyond the lanky Korean as he sent his low drive just wide of the far post.
Four minutes later, Kim found some space and from just inside the penalty area attempted a clever lob that beat the goalkeeper, but again went narrowly wide.
Harimau Muda custodian Ilham Amirullah was in fine form on this occasion and saved superbly from Patrick Paran after Jung had set him up.
Then, Harimau Muda began to work themselves into the game with Norhamizaref Hamid riding a few torrid tackles before goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam came to Balestier’s rescue by racing off his line with perfect timing in the 11th minute.
A smart free-kick from Tengku Mushadad was saved in the 23rd minute before Kim had to go off injured, and Hamqaamal Shah came on as the talented 22-year-old’s replacement.
Harimau Muda probably had the better of the second half, as Akmal Ishak failed to connect with an ambitious scissors kick in the 63rd minute from livewire Maxsius Musa’s cross. Then, a vital save by Zaiful from a Maxsius attempt in the 79th denied the latter’s clever chip from dipping in.
Balestier were at their most threatening over the final ten minutes after Qiu Li had emerged from the bench, but both sides had to settle for a point each in the end.