SINGAPORE LEAGUE CUP FINAL
Balestier Khalsa 1
Albirex Niigata 2
It is one of two domestic Cups on offer in the Singapore professional football scene but for the third time in four years, a foreign side pipped a local team to The New Paper League Cup after Albirex Niigata (S) edged out Balestier Khalsa in the final last night.
Kento Nagasaki's 89th-minute goal proved the difference as 10-man Balestier went down 1-2 to Albirex at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Japanese team earned $30,000 for their second League Cup win.
The other Cup on offer is the RHB Singapore Cup, which is now in the quarter-final stages.
In the last three editions of the League Cup, Brunei DPMM have won twice, emerging victorious in the 2012 and 2014 editions while Balestier enjoyed success in 2013.
Ten teams took part in this year's competition. The six local S-League teams were joined by two local amateur clubs, GFA Sporting Westlake and Singapore Recreation Club from the National Football League (NFL). DPMM and Albirex made up the two remaining sides.
Balestier took the lead in the 15th minute when Tarik Cmajcanin released Zulkiffli Hassim down the left flank. The latter's cross found Miroslav Kristic, who side-footed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. It was the Croatian forward's sixth goal of the tournament, making him the top scorer.
While 2011 winners Albirex were shocked at conceding their first goal of the competition, they pressed on, equalising in the 76th minute. Shotaro Ihata flicked the ball on to release Fumiyo Kogure, who made no mistake.
The winning goal came in the dying minutes of the game.
Substitute Nagasaki received the ball in the box from Kogure's lifted pass and thumped his effort beyond the reach of a hapless Zaiful Nizam in goal.
Kristic saw red in the 90th minute when he was caught lashing out at Kento with an elbow by referee Sukhbir Singh.
Tatsuyuki Okuyama, Albirex's coach, said: "I always knew we would get the (winning) goal. When we conceded, it surprised us but our substitutes made an impact on the game. "
With Warriors FC now leading the S-League, one point ahead of Albirex, the hope of avid football fans here would be for the Warriors to salvage some local pride and retain their S-League title.