The Japanese winger struck the equaliser in the second half to secure a share of the spoils against their opponents who were unlucky to hit the woodwork twice in the first periodWarriors FC and Balestier Khalsa settled for a point apiece on Wednesday night at a packed Choa Chu Kang Stadium, with the 1-1 draw declared a pleasing outcome by both coaches after they had taken stock of their respective team’s performances.
Warriors began slowly and found themselves a goal down after only three minutes, as the Tigers came out of the blocks breathing fire and soon had the scoreboard ticking over.
Many of the 3,936 spectators who eventually found their way onto the terraces, and were still moving in well into the first half, may have mostly been there to support the home team. If so, they would probably have been disappointed to see the Warriors not only go a goal down early, but survive some narrow escapes before half-time that could easily have seen their opponents three or four goals to the good.
That never happened as luck was to play its part in allowing chances to go begging at either end, with efforts that struck the woodwork twice for Balestier Khalsa probably the closest either team came to scoring again before the whistle sounded for the break.
Long balls by both teams got the game going at the start, but after that each team settled down to try and play football. The passing game worked well for Balestier in particular, who again relied on Paul Cunningham to provide a spearhead, alongside Qiu Li and Zulkifli Hassim, with Kim Min Ho tucking in just behind them much of the time.
It was the Korean, Kim, who opened the scoring after a rasping shot from Cunningham had stung the palms of Hyrulnizam Juma’at, with the ball spilling from the big goalkeeper’s hands onto the ground in front of him.
Covering defender Shi Jiayi tried to sweep the loose ball clear but slipped as he went about his task, and the ball then sat up nicely for Kim to steer it home.
Two minutes later Balestier showed the Warriors how to defend in numbers, after their own custodian Zaiful Nizam spilled a fierce shot from Sufian Anuar. Five defenders converged on the loose ball before any handily-placed Warriors men could take advantage.
The Warriors looked more settled after the break and drew level in the 56th minute.
Hafsyar Farkhan delivered a cross from the right that was helped on by Mislav Karoglan before Sufian slid the ball square to Tatsuro Inui on the left, 20 yards out.
The Japanese midfielder beat Zaiful with a grounder, which not only leveled the scores, but gave the Warriors the confidence to go on with the job.
Eventually they had to settle for a point, however, as Balestier brought Cunningham back to defend and only once were the Tigers really threatened.
That was in the 67th when Inui got to the byline and cut the ball back to where Karoglan and Sufian were waiting at the far post.
Neither could make clean contact and that was probably their best either had of snatching a winner.