For The Record...
"In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Zainudin (Nordin, FAS President) reiterated that the S-league will not become a "poorer cousin" once the LionsXII start their Malaysia Cup campaign."

Friday, September 26, 2014

[Singapore Cup] Zaiful's heroics propelled Tigers to the Final

Zaiful dived to deny Mustafic's spot-kick
The fairy tales continued for Balestier Khalsa after they secured a berth in the RHB Singapore Cup Final, where they are going to face either Home United or Brunei DPMM on the 7th of November at Jalan Besar, after knocked out Tampines Rovers 4-1 on penalties in the semi-final at the Toa Payoh Stadium last evening.

Following a nail biting end to their Round Two league fixtures that saw pipped ahead of their "Pinball" rivals, Hougang United to be among the top echelon of the league table, the Tigers had to endure another nerve-wrecking moments before making to another major Cup Final second year on running (they won the League Cup last year).

The ball hit my shin in the end after out of play
Starting the second leg of this series on a one-goal disadvantage, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic had declared his team would opt for an attacking tactic which he felt was a more viable option.

Speaking to the official site (sleague.com) before the match, the Croatian said:“When you are a goal down, you must attack from the first minute. We must score at least two goals and win the game. We need to focus on attack now,”

(L-R) Kiwis in action - Jake Butler and Paul Cunningham
It was not a surprise to see why the Tigers adapted that stance, especially they missed a chance in the first-leg, which they would have levelled the series should Goran Ljubojevic had converted his spot-kick in the dying moments at Clementi days earlier.

The match also saw the welcoming back in action for Balestier's defence lynchpin Paul Cunningham after a lengthy absence due to an operation months ago and New Zealander put up a stellar performance to keep the usual potent Tampines frontline at bay.

Cunningham's header levelled the aggregate
Hence, it was Cunningham, himself, who rose above the sea of heads in the 61st minute to head home to break the deadlock and squared one 2-2 on aggregate that saw no further goal till the end of the extra-time that led to the penultimate penalty decider.

From there onwards, it was another Balestier player who stolen the limelight of the evening.

Facing national midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, his former Lion City Cup squad mate for the Tampines' first attempt, Zaiful Nizam dived the right way to deny the Stags before repeated the same act against Fahrudin Mustafic.

"I always learned and watched their body positioning before they took their kicks, while making sure I would not make any movement before they did." said Balestier's 'keeper-cum-captain after making those two saves and scored the final kick that propelled his team to the red-letter date in November.
Balestier's chairman Mr S Thavaneson after the win
Sharing his thoughts on how significant this victory is, the 26-year-old custodian added:"Just in my mind, I want this Cup badly, because last year we made it to the semifinals as well but lost to Home United and ended up playing in the third and fourth placing match,

"I'm proud of the team today, as everyone is working very hard and I just need to save the penalty to advance to the final."

MATCH FACTFILE
  • The match ended 2-2 on aggregate after extra-time and proceed to the penalty decider
  • Tampines Rovers' takers: Shahdan Sulaiman (saved), Mustafic Fahrudin (saved), Jacob Butler (scored)
  • Balestier Khalsa's takers: Paul Cunningham (scored), Emir Lotinac (scored), Kim Minho (scored), Zaiful Nizam (scored)

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