Football: Tigers tear up New Radiant

Balestier Khalsa scored an emphatic 3-0 win over New Radiant in their penultimate Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Group F match.
Balestier Khalsa scored an emphatic 3-0 win over New Radiant in their penultimate Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Group F match.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Balestier keep knockout stage hopes alive with big win despite missing forward Kristic

AFC CUP

Balestier Khalsa 3
New Radiant (Maldives) 0

They were on the verge of victory in their previous meeting, before a last-minute New Radiant equaliser meant Balestier Khalsa had to share the spoils in the 2-2 draw in February.

But there was no such heartbreak this time, as the Tigers found the net thrice for the first time this season in an emphatic 3-0 win over New Radiant in their penultimate Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Group F match last night.

The S-League side, cheered on by 706-strong crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium, took a quick 2-0 lead after 31 minutes through well-taken efforts from Zulkiffli Hassim and Jamil Ali.

Zulkiffli, the match-winner against Kitchee last month, kept up his AFC Cup scoring form with the opener. He then provided an assist for Jamil, who capped off a good performance in central midfield against the group's bottom side with a goal.

A poor clearance after 60 minutes allowed Tigers forward Fadhil Noh, starting in place of the suspended Miroslav Kristic, to curl the ball past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Fairooz Ahmed.

Man-of-the-match  Jamil, typically deployed on the wing, said: "When I played for Tampines (Rovers), I used to play behind the striker, it's also in the centre. In this role I have to defend more, and I have not much trouble with that."

The Maldivian champions, who went into the match with no chance of progressing to the knockout round, were lacklustre in attack, and a hopeful free-kick booted straight at Balestier goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam was the best they could muster in the first-half.

It was an encouraging performance for Balestier, who have seemingly found their scoring boots, despite the absence of Kristic. In fact, the margin of victory could have been larger, with the team striking the woodwork on three occasions.

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic said of his team's attacking output: "They did a really great job… first-half we were excellent, we made a lot of chances, we made a lot of runs behind and the two-zero lead gave us a big advantage."

They will next face Group F leaders Kitchee away in their final group stage match on May 10. With seven points from five games, the Tigers must beat the Hong Kong champions to have any chance of progressing to the knockout round. Kitchee are on 10 points after beating Filipino side Kaya FC (nine points) 1-0 earlier yesterday.   

Kraljevic is confident his team can progress to the knockout round for the first time.

He said: "We have already beaten Kitchee once here, we know how to beat them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Tigers tear up New Radiant'. Print Edition | Subscribe