Fine displays from both Balestier Khalsa custodian Daniel Ong and counterpart Rudy Khairullah meant that both teams cancelled out each other in an entertaining clash
|FROM TOA PAYOH STADIUM
By Eddie Ridzwan
The Young Lions entered the Tigers' den hoping to secure their first point of the season and Sherif El-Masri's spot-kick nearly gave them three instead, but they had to settle for a point after Qiu Li scored a late equaliser.
Both goalkeepers were in fine form with stellar saves when called upon, although there was nothing they could do for the respective goals that went into the back of their nets.
It was the home side that started on the front foot as they were dominating possession within the Courts Young Lions half, with an early header from Obadin Aikhena failing to test Young Lions custodian Rudy Khairullah in the fourth minute.
Shortly after, Nurullah Hussein limped off the field to be replaced by Afiq Noor.
Balestier continued to limit their younger and less experienced opponents to only a few shots and the lesser share of possession, with Rudy doing well to palm away an effort from Qiu in the 25th minute after the forward had cut in from the right.
Four minutes later, Ruhaizad Ismail narrowly missed the target with a sumptuous volley, which would have been a contender for goal of the season had it gone in.
The home side’s failure to put away their chances would come to haunt them in the 35th minute when Hamqaamal Shah was adjudged to have committed a foul against Shamil Sharif inside the penalty box.
Former Home United attacker El-Masri confidently stepped up to place his spot-kick beyond Daniel Ong’s reach to break the deadlock.
The 23-year-old Canadian then almost doubled the visitors' lead when he ghosted past the defence to head the ball over the bar in the final moments of the first half.
Aikhena then went straight into the referee’s book after the break as he recklessly brought Nur Na’iim Ishak down outside the penalty box.
Balestier coach Darren Stewart had no intention of losing, as evidenced by his decision to throw on two additional strikers in the form of Patrick Paran and Kim Minho at the hour mark.
The Tigers continued piling the pressure on the Young Lions, and it eventually paid off when the industrious Qiu rose to the occasion as he headed home to equalize for the hosts with nine minutes left to play.
Despite the home side continuing to press for a winner, both sides had to eventually settle for a share of the spoils each.