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[AFC Cup] Tigers Upset HK's Kitchee To Notch First Win of The Year ...

Unfancied Balestier scored their first win of the year
Not only Balestier Khalsa got their first victory of the year last evening at the AFC Cup by causing an upset by defeated Hong Kong powerhouses Kitchee SC at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the win also placed them at the top of the Group F table after Kaya FC of the Philippines beat Maldives' New Radiant with the same scoreline

Against the run of play with the visitors dominated much of the possession, Balestier took the lead in the 31st minute when Zulkiffli Hassim made no mistake from a cross floated in from the right from Fadhil Noh.

"I am not surprise as I had a feeling that I will score," said Zulkiffli on the solitary goal he scored that gifted the Tigers their first competitive win of this season. "And I am happy that we won this game with this goal."

"Zul" was on his way out of JBS before sharing his thoughts
"I think tonight we played very compact and defended well against Kitchee who did a lot of attacking against us.

"To win the three points to place at the top of our group is a good result for us." added the 30-year-old.

The Tigers could have double that tally eight minutes later when Miroslav Kristic was fouled in the box by Kitchee's custodian Wang Zhenpeng which left little option for the referee to point to the spot.

Unlucky Kristic (right) failed to find target
But Wang immediately atoned himself by dived to the right direction to deny the Croatian striker from completing his routine on a night that saw him largely being isolated upfront with the hosts continued to stick to their proven defensive game plan that causing frustration to opponents they faced so late.

Balestier's coach Marko Kraljevic attributed hard work that paid off in achieving this result.

"We worked hard and it paid off." said the Croatian tactician after the game that was watched by a crowd of 1,048.

"We did not expect to be at the top," added Coach Kraljevic after being told the result of the Kaya-New Radiant match. "But it will not be easy and be tough to play away against Kaya." as the Tigers are due to face the reigning United Football League (UFL) Cup holders in a week's time in Manila.

Emir Lotinac (top center) is doubtful for next game
Back on the match itself, the 50-year-old Singapore permanent resident suggested the missing of key players in Kitchee would explained why they were not able to display the brand of football that tormented Singapore clubs in the same tournament in recent years.

"They (Kitchee) missed Jordi (Spanish striker Jorge Tarres Paramo) but we also missing a few of our own and that's why we tried to defend well, attacked them on counters with Kitchee's defence looked shaky."

"With this win tonight, we hope to build on it for our season." concluded the former midfielder.

Kitchee's Rufino Del Burgo (17) missed "Jordi" upfront
Despite the undesired result that saw the Hong Kong side conceded their first lost to a Singapore side at JBS since 2008, interim coach Alex Chu of the reigning Hong Kong Premier League champions still believe his side can make to the knockout phrase of the competition - a feat they have been maintaining since 2012 when they rejoined after a lapse of four years.

"I am still confident that we can make it to the next round of the tournament," said the man who serves as the club's director of football who took over the hot seat after the recent departure of former head coach Abraham Garcia merely days ago.

"We created but couldn't score those chances in the game and Balestier's defending made our game difficult.

"I believe factors like humidity and recent number of games we played had made our players tired but we will keep on fighting to do well in both AFC Cup and Hong Kong League."


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