Balestier Khalsa vs Warriors FC: Can the Tigers’ AFC Cup win give them a boost?

S.League | Jalan Besar Stadium | Fri 11 Mar| 7.45pm 

Billed As

A chance for Balestier Khalsa to get their first league win of the new campaign.

The lowdown

Many had tipped them to struggle this season and it seemed that the Tigers would go on to prove them right after a surprise opening day defeat to the Garena Young Lions.

But in their last outing, Balestier showed that there was plenty of fire in them yet, as they look to confound their doubters, one counter-attack at a time.

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Balestier 1-0 Kitchee SC (AFC Cup)
  • Geylang International 0-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Balestier 1-1 Albirex (S.League)
  •  New Radiant SC 2-2 Balestier (AFC Cup)
  • Garena Young Lions 1-0 Balestier (S.League)

Warriors Form

  • Warriors 2-0 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
  • Brunei DPMM 3-1 Warriors (S.League)
  • Home United 2-2 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Warriors 6-2 Garena Young Lions (Friendly)
  • Hougang United 2-3 Warriors (Friendly)

A soak-and-hit strategy yielded dividends for them on Tuesday, after heroic defending and clinical finishing allowed them to post a 1-0 win over Hong Kong side Kitchee SC.

In fact, since their defeat to the Young Lions, the Tigers have gone on a four-match unbeaten run, posting credible draws against two of the better sides in the league this year, Geylang International and Albirex Niigata (S).

As they prepare to face Warriors FC, the Balestier side will now aim to kick on and record its first league victory of the year.

The Warriors themselves have not been as convincing as they ought to so far this season.

Fortunate to get a draw against Home United on the opening day, the Warriors were then beaten 3-1 by Brunei DPMM.

Although they did put away the Young Lions in their last outing with a 2-0 victory, they flattered to deceive in what should have been a straightforward tie.

With a side brimming with confidence taking on a team devoid of it, this is surely a prime opportunity for the Tigers to record their first league win of the season.   

Team News

Balestier were buoyed by the return of Emir Lotinac in the AFC Cup win over Kitchee, but the 28-year-old Serbian picked up a knock during the win and appears set to miss out once again.

Elsewhere, defender Ho Wai Loon and forward Robert Pericic are still out due to injuries.

For the Warriors, they will be boosted by the return of national team centre-back Madhu Mohana, who sat out his side’s last two matches due to suspension.

Up front, Hafiz Nor is not expected to feature as he is struggling with a foot injury.

Hadi has been immense at the back for Balestier. Photo: S.League

Key Battle: Sheikh Abdul Hadi vs Jonathan Behe

Past Five meetings

  • Balestier 2-4 Warriors (S.League, Sep '15)
  • Balestier 4-0 Warriors (League Cup, June '15)
  • Balestier 1-2 Warriors (S.League, May '15)
  • Balestier 0-1 Warriors (S.League, March '15)
  • Balestier 1-0 Warriors (S.League, Oct '14)

As far as individual performances go in the 2016 season, none have been more colossal than the one put up by Hadi in the Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kitchee on Tuesday.

His man-of-the-match performance came on the back of a flawless display against Geylang in a 0-0 draw the previous week.

The Tigers have kept two consecutive clean sheets and Hadi has been an integral factor in them.

While Balestier and Hadi will aim to make it three clean sheets in a row, it will not be an easy task with Frenchman Jonathan Behe around.

Behe is a strong unit who is quick across the ground and that is where he could gain an advantage over Hadi.

The Coaches

It is not pretty but Balestier’s football under the tutelage of Marko Kraljevic has enabled them to continuously punch above their weights.

A coach who specialises in the art of sitting back and then punishing opponents on the counter, Marko is not a man who loses sleep over the percentage of possession his side averages.

Warriors counterpart Jorg Steinebrunner, on the other hand, is a coach who advocates attacking football and is not afraid to tinker with his tactics as seen from his varied use of 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 formations during his Geylang days.

If there is anything in common between these coaches, it is their love for tricky wingers as seen from their use of players like Hafiz Nor, Fazli Jaffar, Zulkiffli Hassim and Jamil Ali.

Facts and Figures

  • The overall head-to-head record between both teams is massively one-sided, with Balestier winning only six out of the 38 matches played against Warriors

  • Jonathan Behe has scored in every game that he has featured in this season.

FourFourTwo prediction

Balestier Khalsa 0 Warriors 1. Balestier come into this game on the back of a brave win in the AFC Cup, but having defended for the majority of that game, the Tigers could concede a late goal as they tire out in the latter stages of this match.
Main Photo: Weixiang Lim / FFT