Debut goals from marquee signing Monsef Zerka and midfielder Kamel Ramdani saw Tanjong Pagar United to victory, despite a spirited Balestier Khalsa comeback in the second half
|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By En Lim
A French revolution appears to have turned the tide for Tanjong Pagar United, as last season’s second-from-bottom outfit started their 2013 campaign with an impressive opening win against Balestier Khalsa at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
Led by new coach Patrick Vallee, the Jaguars started the game brightly with marquee signing Monsef Zerka impressing immensely on his debut. The striker escaped the Balestier defence’s attentions in the 5th minute and sweetly struck the ball into the bottom right corner to open his accounts for the season.
Spurred by the opener, the Jaguars extended their lead just five minutes later thanks to another new boy, Kamel Ramdani. The Frenchman fired an unstoppable shot into the net after taking advantage of a poor back pass by Tengku Mushahad that left teammate Obadin Aikhena exposed.
Balestier continued to be on the back-foot for the remainder of the first half, rendering Tanjong Pagar goalkeeper Aurelien Herrisen a mere spectator in the match.
A curled shot by Park Kang Jin that sailed over the goal was the only highlight of the Tigers’ first half, as they spurned several set-piece opportunities and went into half-time needing a miracle to rescue at least a point.
Coach Darren Stewart attempted to shake things up in the second half as he introduced forward Zulkiffli Hasim into the fray, and the Tigers seemed more fired up after the restart. Zulkiffli nearly made an instant impact as his shot hit the post, before the ball was cleared out for a corner.
The resulting corner saw Balestier snatch a goal back through midfielder Park Kang Jin ten minutes into the second half, as the Korean poked the ball into the net reacting quickest to a low cross from Ruhaizad Ismail.
They nearly leveled the match on the hour mark after a scorcher from Qiu Li struck the bar and seemingly crossed the line before bouncing out, only for the referee to correctly rule otherwise.
It was simply not Qiu Li’s night as the Singapore international struck the post yet again with a perfectly swerved freekick with less than 15 minutes to go, and Balestier were made to pay for not taking their chances.
Substitute Hafiz Nor hit a stunning volley from a tight angle in the 90th minute to seal an impressive opening-day victory for Tanjong Pagar United, as Balestier were left to lick their wounds.
The win will no doubt boost the morale in the Jaguars camp ahead of their next match against Warriors FC on February 27, while Balestier will look to regroup in their clash against Geylang International one day earlier.