Skipper Paul Cunningham struck a beautiful equaliser for the Tigers against Warriors FC as they saw three red cards in a game full of drama, which ultimately ended 2-2
Balestier Khalsa salvaged a late draw against Warriors FC despite having three men sent off in a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.
It was a full-blooded affair, with the Tigers going ahead on 15 minutes after Goran Ljubojevic’s looping header from a corner gave his side the lead.
However, the Warriors came back strongly as Miroslav Pejic brought his side level eight minutes before the break with a stunning, curling effort.
The visitors then took the lead in controversial fashion five minutes into the second half as Nicolas Velez, who looked to be in an offside position, smashed the ball home from six yards after a well-worked set-piece routine.
Things turned from bad to worse for Balestier soon after that as they were reduced to 10 men when Yusiskandar Yusop was given his marching orders for a reckless tackle on Kevin McCann.
But skipper Paul Cunningham took matters into his own hands with a superb 25-yard lob five minutes from the end that had coach Marko Kraljevic running onto the pitch in delight to celebrate with his players.
As both sides tried to look for the winner, referee Sukhbir Singh took center stage in added time as he showed Kim Min-ho a second yellow card when the Korean took his time to leave the field during a substitution.
The decision riled the Tigers and substitute Ridwan Jamil lost his cool moments later, pushing Daniel Bennett to the ground and copping a second booking as well to leave the Tigers hanging on with eight men.
It might have been honours even for both sides, but there could not have been more contrasting emotions from both coaches during the post-match press conference.
For one, Kraljevic was absolutely thrilled after his side came out with an unlikely point.
“It is a great result, I don’t know what to say,” the visibly elated Croatian said after the match. “Jalan Besar is not an easy pitch to play, we had nothing to lose and the boys worked very hard with 10 men.”
However, he refused to comment on the referee despite seeing three of his players getting sent off.
“I don’t want to get into trouble, everybody saw what happened so I don’t want to comment,” he said. “I don’t think it was a nasty game. It was a good, open game with so many chances. It was nice for the people to watch."
Warriors coach Alex Weaver, on the other hand, had a completely different view of the match as he launched a scathing attack on Balestier’s indiscipline.
“It was a horrible game,” he lamented. “I’m very happy with the discipline and control that we showed. It was just a shame that the league had to see that tonight; I feel bad for the league. They have gone away thinking they’ve got a good performance and a good point, but they’ve let the league down.
“I don’t think their 'heroic' performance should overshadow the fact that we’re trying to make this league as good as possible. They will be complaining about the referee, but I thought the yellow cards and red cards were right.”
Still, Weaver admitted that his side should have done better in seeing out the game when they took the lead, with their opponents going a man down five minutes later.
“We were a little bit sloppy in the attacking third, we didn’t kill them off when we should have done and it’s disappointing to concede that goal at the end,” he acknowledged.
“You deserve what you get. It’s about scoring goals and stopping goals. We were sloppy at both ends and the players would be disappointed. We go into games expecting to win, especially when they go down to 10 men, but we couldn’t kill them off. Having the majority of possession doesn’t mean you deserve to win games.”
Nevertheless, the Englishman believes his team will recover from the disappointment and resume their good form in the league.
“We’ll bounce back from this,” he said. “We haven’t lost the game, but it feels a little like it. We’re at home against Woodlands next Thursday and we’ve been very good at home.”
Warriors have 10 points from five games while Balestier are two points behind them with eight.