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[Starhub League Cup] Toothless Tigers overhelmed by the Cheetahs

Defending Cup holders Balestier Khalsa are just a defeat away from being eliminated from the first major title they won last year, following a 3-0 whitewash by Hougang United who have been impressive this season since former international Amin Nasir took over during the mid-season last year.
Geison Moura (left) opened the account
It was a pretty physical Group D encounter between these two teams that banded together as the "Pinball Derby" - a term that was coined last season after former Cheetahs coach Johana Johari described the Tigers' game as "playing pinball" in their Singapore Cup Quarter-Final match that eventually saw the Toa Payoh-based side knocked the team from Hougang out of that tournament.

Since then, many changes between the two had been taken place with the Balestier languished at the bottom half of the league with the Cheetahs riding on the crest of things that see them ranked as one of the "dark horses" for the league title race.

"Cool it, guys!"
The sign of that confidence shown by the visitors at the Toa Payoh Stadium last evening was in evidence for the more dynamic style of football they displayed against their hosts who were struggling for large part of the game, especially in providing the much-needed ammunition to their Croatian striker Goran Ljubojevic who was left isolated in the attacking third.

One factor that explained the poor showing by Balestier could be fatigue, as suggested by head coach Marko Kraljevic after the match.

Tigers relying too much on Park Kang Jin (right)
Ljubojevic (left) struggled in this match
Said former Kelantan midfielder:"As compared to Hougang who have a two-week break since their last game, my team had been playing many games recently." citing their recent two-legged Singapore Cup win over Geylang International (1,2) that earned the semi-final berth against Tampines Rovers.

"However, there's no excuse for that, as it's just one of those off days and the boys had tried hard for tonight that we have no other choice but to win our next game (against league leaders Brunei DPMM) by putting in some fresh legs." added the Croatian coach.

Fadhil Salim (center) foiled another Tigers attempt
The visitors began their rout in the 34th minute when Brazilian striker Geison Moura finished up the routine before two more goals were scored late in the injury time by substitute Faiz Salleh in the 89th and Diego Gama in the 91st minute, it would have been a bigger margin if not for the heroics by Tigers' custodian Zaiful Nizam in the match.

"It was not an easy game against Balestier," were the first words uttered by Hougang coach Amin in his post-match assessment. "I am happy with the result and we prepared well for this game by getting our tactics work which I think the performance tonight is brilliant that it be good for us in our preparation for the next game against DPMM."

Coach Amin (left) shares his thoughts after match
Two-time winners Brunei DPMM are scheduled to round up their fixtures on this coming Friday against Balestier at Jalan Besar Stadium before travelling to Hougang on the 14th of July.



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