Warriors defeat Tigers as spot-kicks determine the victors in the opening tie of the RHB Singapore Cup 2012In the opening fixture of the 2012 RHB Singapore Cup at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, SAFFC edged out Balestier 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 stalemate during regular time, in front of 936 fans.
In one of the most bizarre starts to a football match, the game started with the Warriors’ Erwan Gunawan going to ground in the opening seconds. He appeared to have pulled his hamstring and was immediately replaced by Eddie Chang.
SAF had the first chance of the game on eight minutes, but the eventual header by Shukor Zailan went agonizingly wide after a great cross from the left flank by Fazrul Nawaz.
Balestier then started to string their passes together and created the better chances. They could have scored just under 15 minutes, if not for a good save by SAF goalkeeper Shahril Jantan from Zulkiffli Hassim’s shot, after Park Kang Jin had jinked his way through the Warriors’ defence.
The Warriors then stepped up a gear and ended the half the stronger side, forcing a good save on 38 minutes from Balestier goalkeeper Zakariah Nerani, after a good long-range attempt by Miroslav Karoglan.
As the teams reappeared for the second half, the Warriors showed more drive and seized the early initiative with the opening goal on 48 minutes. A neat pass from Shimpei Sakurada found Karolgan in the box, and the Croatian took the ball well with his feet before firing an unstoppable right-footed shot past a hapless Zakariah.
As the half wore on, Balestier was lucky to remain with 11 men on the pitch after Ruhaizad Ismail had kicked out petulantly at SAF’s Shimpei under the hour mark. However referee Subkhir Singh dubiously dished out only a yellow card for what appeared to be a serious foul.
Balestier then pushed forward more aggressively in search for the elusive equalizer, but was brilliantly denied by SAF’s custodian Shahril Jantan.
Shahril made an excellent double save, the first, a one-handed save from a ferocious drive by Tengku Mushadad, and the second, an acrobatic save from Park Kang Jin in the last 15 minutes of the match.
The Tigers were finally rewarded with two minutes to go, as Kim Min-Ho stroked the ball into an open goal on 88 minutes, following some good work by Zulkiffli, forcing the game to go into extra-time.
Both teams missed golden opportunities to seal the game in extra time. Balestier almost seal the game on 101 minutes, after Paran was put through on goal, only to be denied by Shahril, and the rebound fell to Zulkiffli who faced an open goal, but Daniel Bennett’s well-time crunching tackle saved his team’s blushes. While SAF very nearly snatched the tie at the death but Shukor’s shot went wide off the left post.
The game eventually ended in a 1-1 stalemate and went into a penalty shoot-out to decide the tie, with SAF emerging winners after Syed Thaha missed the final penalty kick for Balestier. This gave Warriors a morale-boosting victory, and they now await the winner of the DPMM-Home United clash on Thursday 17 May.