League Cup Review: Albirex through to last four, Balestier almost there

Matchday 3 of the TNP League Cup saw Albirex Niigata (Singapore) advancing to the semi-finals after beating Sporting Westlake 2-0, while Balestier Khalsa are poised to join them after a 2-2 draw with Tampines Rovers.

Albirex have sealed top spot in Group C, while Balestier will similarly finish top of Group B if Tampines Rovers do not beat Warriors FC by a five-goal margin next Wednesday.  

Albirex Niigata (S) 2 Sporting Westlake 0

After needing two late goals to down Home United four days ago, there was no such trouble for Albirex this time round against semi-professional outfit Sporting Westlake.

Midfielder Atsushi Kawata opened the scoring on 36 minutes with a speculative shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection before deceiving Asyraf Asyfar in the Sporting goal. 

The custodian redeemed himself on 52 minutes by saving Shotaro Ihata’s penalty, but his efforts turned out to be in vain as his side was soon reduced to nine men – with former Balestier Khalsa winger Ruhaizad Ismail and Sutrisno Salleh both being shown red cards.

The White Swans sealed all three points in the 89th minute through Rion Taki, who latched on to an intelligent ball from Kawata before coolly finishing past Asyraf.

Tampines Rovers 2 Balestier Khalsa 2

It was a game of two halves at the Jalan Besar Stadium as the S.League sides played out a four-goal thriller.

After a mundane first half, Tampines Rovers broke the deadlock on 52 minutes through captain Fahrudin Mustafic, who diverted Predrag Pocuca’s shot home from close range after Shaiful Esah’s outswinging corner was half-cleared.

Balestier levelled matters in the 54th minute through Zulkiffli Hassim, who slotted home from three yards out after being found by a superb Fadhil Noh ball across the six-yard box.

The Stags were to retake the lead four minutes later through a piece of magic from Mateo Roskam.

Latching on to Aqhari Abdullah’s lofted ball, the Croatian forward produced a couple of deceptive turns before scooping the ball over the onrushing Zaiful Nizam and into the Balestier goal.

However, the Tigers restored parity once again on 71 minutes, with Fadhil reacting the quickest to prod home Ho Wai Loon’s cross after Tampines had failed to deal with a corner kick.

Photos: Football Association of Singapore