Balestier Khalsa vs Kaya FC: Can the Tigers end a streak of 1-0 losses?

AFC Cup | Jalan Besar Stadium | Tues 12 Apr | 7.30pm  

Billed as

Balestier Khalsa’s chance to put their woeful league form behind them.

The lowdown

To put it simply, it has not been a good start to the season for Balestier.  Yes, they may have stunned Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC 1-0 in the AFC Cup earlier on and conceded more than one goal just once in 10 matches in all competitions.

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Tampines Rovers 1-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Balestier 0-1 Home United (S.League)
  • Hougang 1-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Kaya FC 1-0 Balestier (AFC Cup)
  • Balestier 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)

Kaya FC Form

  • Kaya FC 3-3 (7-8 on pens) Ceres La Salle (UFL Cup)
  • Loyola Meralco Sparks 1-2 Kaya FC (UFL Cup)
  • Kaya FC 1-0 Balestier (AFC Cup)
  • Kaya FC 1-0 New Radiant SC (AFC Cup)
  • Forza FC 0-6 Kaya FC (UFL Cup)

However, they have failed to score in six of those and are yet to earn a single win in the league. It was a typical Balestier story last Thursday, having toiled hard without much rewards as they fell to an 1-0 defeat to title-chasing Tampines Rovers.

Goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam did his best to keep the score line down, but even he cannot do much going  forward if striker Miroslav Kristic and company continue to fire blanks.

Incredibly, that was the Tigers’ fourth consecutive 1-0 loss in a row in all competitions and their fifth of the season (they also lost by the scoreline to the Garena Young Lions in their first league game).

A rather decent start in the AFC Cup should keep their morale up though. One win, one draw and one defeat so far place them in second spot in Group F, level on four points with Kitchee and two behind leaders Kaya FC – who will be their opponents on Tuesday night.

The Philippines representatives are still reeling from the hurt they suffered last Wednesday, as they lost out on the chance to retain the United Football League (UFL) Cup – the trophy they won which earned them the rights to participate in the regional club competition this year.

Kaya had thrice come from behind to pull level with Ceres La Salle and push the semi-final tie to extra time and subsequently penalties, but they were ultimately edged out by a heart-wrenching 8-7 score line in the lottery shootout – with Antonio Ugarte missing the vital kick.

They will surely be hoping to redeem themselves in this match and further boost their chances of making it into the AFC Cup knockout stages for the first time in their history.

Team News

Ho Wai Loon and Robert Pericic continue to make their way back from injuries, but the Tigers will be able to call upon the services of the fit-again Fadhil Noh – who plundered in four goals for their Prime League side in a 5-5 draw with their Tampines counterparts over the weekend.

Midfield hard-man Shah Hirul is rated as ’50-50’ since he only returned to training recently.

There are not much injuries reported for Kaya as well, with the precocious OJ Porteria expected to spearhead their attack once again with the likes of Louis Max Clark, Kenshiro Daniels and Ugarte in support.

Key Battle: Miroslav Kristic vs Alexandar “Aly” Borromeo  

Kristic is still searching for his first goal of the season.

After scoring 23 goals in all competitions in 2015, the stats make grim reading for Kristic this year as he has failed to hit the back of the net so far.

Maybe it is due to the lack of quality service from midfield. Maybe Kristic is struggling without strike partner Pericic – who has not played a single minute this season due to injury.

Whatever the reason, it is imperative that the 26-year-old Croatian marksman return to form soon – starting from this match.

He will come up against Kaya captain Borromeo, an experienced 32-year-old who marshals his backline with much assurance and does not shirk from a challenge.

The Coaches

This is Marko Kraljevic’s third season in charge of Balestier and it is certainly shaping to his toughest year yet.

The German-Croat has a small squad to call upon, with a number of their players featuring in every minute of their 10 matches so far this season. Fatigue will surely be an issue and the onus is on him to figure out how to get the maximum from his overworked players.

He will be aiming to get one over Kaya counterpart Joel Villarino, who played a superb game plan to shut the Tigers out in their 1-0 win at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila a month ago.

Facts and Figures

  • Balestier has conceded more than one goal on just one occasion this season – the 2-2 draw away against New Radiant in their opening Group F game.  
  • Kaya have only failed to score once in their last seven matches – a 1-0 defeat away against Kitchee in their opening Group F game.
  • Balestier’s Miroslav Kristic has yet to score since hitting a brace in a 4-3 win against Tampines Rovers last November.

FourFourTwo prediction

Balestier 1 Kaya 1. The Tigers may be on a bad streak of form right now, but they are a different side when it comes to the continental stage.

Photo: Weixiang Lim / FFT