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No way through for Balestier striker Qiu Li against former side Home United in their 1-0 loss.

Lethal Lee fires Protectors to second

No way through for Balestier striker Qiu Li against former side Home United in their 1-0 loss.

Sam Chow

The Korean star struck a classy finish after coming on at the start of the second half to give the uniformed giants all three points in a 1-0 win against Balestier Khalsa

He only had one chance, but that was all Lee Kwan Woo needed against Balestier Khalsa on Friday night as the former Korean international showed his class with a lethal finish to seal a 1-0 win for Home United and send them to second place.

The 35-year-old playmaker displayed the kind of composure the game sorely lacked until his introduction at the start of the second half, as both teams struggled to break the deadlock at the Jalan Besar Stadium prior to his winner.

Needing at least a point to keep their top-three hopes alive, the Tigers started stronger, with Qiu Li central in most of their early attacks.

A 30-yard shot that bounced straight into Shahril Jantan’s arms on three minutes was followed by a clever back-heel in the box on 24 minutes, which found Hamqamaal Shah in space on the left. Ismail Yunos raced back superbly to produce the block and from the ensuing corner, skipper Paul Cunningham glanced Qiu’s pinpoint delivery wide at the near post.

Shahril then did superbly to rush out of the area to beat Park Kang Jin to a lofted pass and allay the danger with some neat footwork, before he watched another shot from Qiu bounce wide from the edge of the box.

Home came into the game more after the half-hour mark and Balestier were let off when Ismail’s first touch failed him after a deep cross found him unmarked in the box. The ball was cleared for a corner and a goal-line clearance from Syed Thaha prevented the opener after Sirina Camara’s delivery caused havoc.

Five minutes later, Zaiful Nizam made a stunning save to deny Jordan Webb from point-blank range after the winger sidefooted Masrezwan Masturi’s low cross at goal, although the flag had already gone up for offside when the Canadian headed in the rebound.

Juma’at Jantan then smacked a fierce 30-yard drive a whisker past the post following a free-kick routine, as Home ended the half on top.

Lee Lim Saeng chose to bring on Korean talisman Lee after the break, but it was Darren Stewart’s men who started brightly again.

Just two minutes in, a promising two-on-one break led by Kim Min-ho came to naught after his poor pass cannoned into Juma’at, with Hamqamaal free in the centre.

Shahril then reacted well to hold on to Park’s close range volley after the Korean was allowed to get to Tengku Mushadad’s floated free-kick.

Cunningham, Obadin Aikhena and Kwon Dakyung then all saw their attempts clear the bar as the game swung from end to end, with both sides evenly matched.

That was, until Lee to stamped his mark on the game. Having smartly teed up Kwon for that shot near the hour mark, he then gave Home the lead in the 73rd minute with his 12th goal of the season.

Having killed Firdaus Idros’s low cross from the right with an assured first touch, the classy Lee then picked his spot and rifled the ball into the bottom corner past a rooted Zaiful.

Stewart responded by bringing on the lively Suria Prakash for an ineffective Kim as they redoubled their efforts, with the Protectors forced into some last ditch defending.

Park’s first-time volley found the side-netting after Qiu picked him out at the far post from a corner in their best chance, although Song Ui-young wasted the chance to seal victory when he dawdled on his final pass as he led a three-on-two break.

Balestier’s misery was compounded when Zulkiffli Hassim was shown a straight red in injury time for apparently lashing out at Webb, as Home beat them by the same scoreline for a third successive meeting.